After I reported on the Thumper announcement yesterday, Simon Phipps wrote: I want one. I kind of snickered, thinking “Simon, get real, that sucker weights 77kg and probably sounds like a 747.” But last night, coincidentally, I ran a backup, which provoked thought, and you know, I think Simon’s right, I think there’s a huge opening for a consumer product in this space. [Update: Hah! Bill Pierce specs out a Databox, it’ll cost you $2,312.33; dig it!]

Early this year I wrote Protecting Your Data; if the ideas in there became widely publicized, that would probably constitute my single largest contribution to humanity. I think what I’m about to propose is in tune with those ideas.

Presenting the Databox · The Databox has one or two cheap-ish CPUs running Solaris, ten or so cheapish disks, and offers a half-terabyte or so of completely reliable, completely maintainable, network-accessible storage for your data, which lives in ZFS, striped and replicated across the disks.

Occasionally, one of the disks might fail. When this happens, you won’t lose any data, but a red light on the Databox will start flashing, and it will send mail to a few designated addresses. When this happens, it’s exactly like when your laser printer starts saying “You need to replace the cyan ink” or “You need to buy a new printer drum”; next time you go shopping, you swing by Best Buy or Costco and pick up another disk unit. When you get home, you open the top of the Databox, pull out the disk with the red LED turned on, drop in the new one, and toss out the old one. Now that I think of it, if you get the interfaces right you don’t even have to have the same capacity disks.

If you configured this right, you could be really very sure that you wouldn’t lose data; ZFS should sail through power failures and so on.

I’d sell the Databox with some sort of physical locking attachment like some home safes have; you could screw it to the studs in the wall so that it would be too much work for burglars to take if you had a break-in.

Why Do We Need It? · Simple: Consumer HD video. Juggling DV tapes or even DVDs generally sucks, I just want to have a place in the basement to store my video and be really sure it’ll still be there when I go to get it.

I could probably build a Databox if I really had to; but then I work for a computer builder these days, so I shouldn’t have to.

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
July 12, 2006
· Technology (87 fragments)
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