"Cloud 9" or "Cloud Nein"?

Last week, Sun announced it's Open Cloud Platform. Sun employees have been given access to sign up and try out the offering. As a person that works at home almost exclusively, I thought I'd try out the cloud as a method to backup the set of active files I have on my home system (vs. my current method of VPN-ing into Sun's internal network and archiving there).

Disclaimer: The info below marks my first experience with any computing cloud. As such, I have no notion of how Sun's offering compares with other vendors, or if the issues I encountered are due to the cloud itself, the tools in the OS, or a combination of both.

The Goal...
My desire is basic enough - take an existing directory hierarchy and copy it to the cloud. I tend to move between several computing devices over the course of the week (and sometimes the day), and having my active set of work files readily accessible without requiring VPN is appealing. My main system runs OpenSolaris build 109 on Intel processors. The things described below were performed on this system.


Take 1...
The quick start guide for Open Cloud listed various tools for various operating systems that would provide access. One listed is the Nautilus file browser that comes with GNOME. That's part and parcel of OpenSolaris, so if I don't have to download and install additional tools, so much the better.

Dropped in the davs:// URL to my cloud volume, and sure enough I was prompted for authentication and my cloud volume was available. Opened up another window with my source files, selected the directories I wanted to copy, did a drag and drop and....hmm....no good. Only the top directories were copied, and to add insult to injury, with no files. With many subdirectories deep, I didn't like the prospect of a manual walk of all my files to copy them over.


Take 2...
Ok. Back to the docs. There's DAV Explorer, but to use on OpenSolaris, I've got some up front work to do. First, I need to install FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace). The install instructions were excellent and I had no issues with the compile and install. A modload later, the fuse driver was active.

# modinfo | grep fuse 216 fffffffff8132000 e4f0 83 1 fuse (fuse driver) 216 fffffffff8132000 e4f0 24 1 fuse (filesystem for fuse)

Now, back to DAV Explorer. I pulled down the binary distribution and launched it. Here, using the https:// URL to Sun's cloud, authentication worked fine. But, I couldn't drag/drop folders to the cloud, and the "Write File" option would only allow selection and uploading of individual files, not a directory. Sigh...


Take 3...
What about mounting the cloud directly? A Google search later, I found that back in April 2008, the notion of a davfs2 on OpenSolaris project was pitched. Perfect - except there's no davfs2 project on the OpenSolaris project portal, so I contacted the folks that first conceived the project instead.

Lucky for me, there was a prototype (unstable, use at your own risk and all that) of the project. And even luckier, it's been compiled and tested on Intel hardware. So the authors graciously allowed me to run an early cut of the software. A pkgadd later, and I'm able to mount my cloud volume:

# mount -F davfs2 https://storage.network.com/<user_id>/<volume> /mnt Please enter the username to authenticate with server https://storage.network.com/<user_id>/<volume> or hit enter for none. Username: XXXX Password: # ls /mnt lost+found

Finally! From here, using the tried at true cp -pr allowed me to perform my backup. The initial backup took some time, but for directory perusal and individual file retrieval, performance is pretty good.

Downside of this....the davfs package isn't available publicly. If you're interested in this route, you'll have to ask the davfs authors for early access to the binaries.


The Silver Lining...
(Apologies for the cloud pun, couldn't resist.) If you're the type of person that does a lot of office-suite work, there's an OpenOffice extension that adds "Open from Cloud..." and "Save to Cloud..." items in the File menu. Works wonderfully. I didn't find a public location to download the extension yet, but here's a screenshot of the menu. Jonathan also included a screenshot of the menu change (from a Mac based on the hotkeys) in a recent blog posting.

Summing up...
To my tongue-in-cheek title, I'm certainly not on "Cloud 9". But far from "Cloud Nein" either. I've got the data I want in the cloud, it's readily accessible. The OpenOffice extension is cool, and I expect to use it. Ideally, Nautilus would just worked with the could as one would expect any file browser to work. But for an initial seeding of the cloud (groan...another cloud pun), it would have been prohibitively cumbersome. Second best would be having both FUSE and davfs2 part of OpenSolaris out of the box, or at least as IPS packages. I suspect OpenSolaris will get there eventually. But if Nautilus worked, I wouldn't have cared about or needed FUSE and davfs2.

Now that I have my cloud volume populated, I do plan to experiment more with accessing the cloud from my other computing platforms. Most of the others run OpenSolaris as well, although one is an iMac. I've also got some Ubuntu and Windows clients running in VirtualBox - I'll play there if and when time permits. If I learn anything that I think is remotely useful, I'll update this entry.

UPDATE: A bulk copy of a directory hierarchy to the cloud using the standard Finder on Mac OX 10.5.6 worked swimmingly.

:wq

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