In keeping with other great web behemoths – most notability Google, eBay, and Yahoo! – Microsoft is currently amassing a vast estate of server farms, strategically located around the world, ready to deliver its line of much vaunted web-based applications and services. Live Drive is the latest in a long list of these services which, if speculation is to be believed, Microsoft is about to offer to businesses and consumers alike, for the storage of everything from home movies to tax forms.
Microsoft’s move into the storage outsourcing arena – albeit in the consumer and, one assumes, small-to-medium-sized enterprise (SME) space – comes soon after the company announced the acquisition of WinTarget and iSCSI-based software technology assets from String Bean Software. These technologies are expected to show up in Microsoft Windows Storage Server R2 later this year (a product whose route to market is expected to be through a variety of OEM deals) and clearly bolster the vision Microsoft refers to as universal distributed storage.
It is, however, still unclear what role Microsoft’s research projects, such as BitVault, are likely to play in the new Live Drive service from MSN. In a paper published in December 2005, Microsoft Research described BitVault as a content-addressable retention platform designed to store large volumes of seldom-changing information that needs to be retained for a long period of time. Designed around the concept of something called a smart brick, BitVault incorporates peer-to-peer technologies in a bid to reduce storage management overhead as volumes grow – something of a holy grail in the storage industry.
Microsoft will probably keep the BitVault technology in-house for the time being, as this may enable the company to offer a low-cost, hosted ‘store everything’ service along the lines of Google’s rumored Gdrive (which sounds in itself to be an enhancement of Google’s Gmail service), without it unduly burdening MSN with an ever-increasing storage management overhead.