The data center on your desktop

The data center on your desktop

Summary: Corporate desktops average single-digit CPU utilization and less than 20% storage utilization. Can this unused capacity be put to work for the data center?


Corporate desktops average single-digit CPU utilization and less than 20% storage utilization. Can this unused capacity be put to work for the data center? Revstor says "yes!"

I spoke to Russ Felker, the founder and CEO of RevStor to learn more about the product.

Average desktop PCs today come with disks ranging in size from 120 GB to 500. But unless you are editing video, producing presentations or crunching big data sets you probably use less than 50 GB. RevStor's SANware backup product puts this unused space to productive use.

Recycling in place Power! Cooling! Capacity! Data centers worldwide are bumping into infrastructure limits due to increasing server and storage density. Yet some estimate that 2/3rds of corporate computing and electrical power is used on the desktop. Why not offload the glass house data centers?

Revstor offers a product called SANware, a backup product that includes what they call a Distributed File System. DFS compresses, encrypts and splits files across desktops to ensure data security and minimizing impact on individual systems. Think of it as corporate BitTorrent.

Data availability You can select how many copies of each piece are stored, so desktops can be offline without compromising data access. As desktops go offline SANware ensures that your required number of copies is maintained. A system goal is not to maintain more than 1/3rd of any file on any single desktop.

SANware also includes a de-duplication feature like other disk2disk backup appliances to reduce traffic. If you've got multiple offices you can specify remote locations for true disaster tolerance.

Performance SANware is designed to be invisible to users. It doesn't reduce the desktop's available space - if you need to suddenly import a 100 GB video you can. SANware simply replicates from remaining copies to maintain your desired fault tolerance.

SANware only uses resources when the system is idle. It won't interfere with your fantasy baseball league and other important business functions. It is so light weight that it is usable on a 500 MHz Pentium 2.

Security All data has 256-bit encryption before it leaves the desktop. Even if someone swiped the desktop they'd have to find the invisible files on the disk, decrypt them and then find the other 2 desktops to get the complete file.

Management Once the agent is installed and the initial settings completed, the system is designed to run without further management intervention. DFS is fully distributed so any node or group of nodes can host the file system metadata. If any of the metadata nodes go offline another node will be promoted to replace it without human intervention.

Who should use this? Russ recommends that SANware makes the most sense for companies with 500-1000 Windows or Linux systems spread over 2-3 locations. You'll have plenty of capacity and the additional locations give added availability.

The Storage Bits take Revstor, along with companies like Seanodes and Cleversafe, is looking at how to use resources already in place for data storage. Most data doesn't need the performance of a million dollar storage array, but it does need security and availability.

SANware is a neat middle step between local dedicated backup systems and remote data storage like Mozy or S3. It uses storage and a fast LAN you already have to create a self-managing backup cluster infrastructure. At $2500 per TB it is an affordable choice for companies who can't add more raised floor space, power, cooling and maintenance contracts without busting their budgets.

Comments welcome, of course.

Topics: Hardware, Data Centers, Data Management, Storage

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  • big problem with this...

    Our company has been migrating to laptops away from desktops over the last two years. Most people take their laptops home.Almost 100% of IT does. Alot of us have the ability to work from home as well.
  • RE: The data center on your desktop

    Good,I need a data center on my desktop to tidy unorderly information.
  • RE: The data center on your desktop

    This sounds a heck of a lot like the MangoSoft product of 10 years ago. I don't remember all the problems but that did not fly, I am not sure why the world is different now.
  • This sounds really cool, but... also sounds like a management nightmare. For example, how many desktops have reliability stats that compare to servers? How much reduncancy has to be built-in to assure decent availability?

    I recall noodling this idea with some friends some 15 years ago, but ultimately considered it unworkable. I'm sure there's some installation out there somewhere where this actually makes sense and would work. I've just never seen one.
  • This sounds like Windows Home Server...

    ... on steroids. WHS has a similar data redundancy technique. It looks like this company has taken this technique and spread it out over hard disks that are external to the server. Should be interesting to see how it does in real life.
  • Product ads...tsk, tsk!!

    How is this different from other "grid" products that we've heard about 3-5 years ago??? Furthermore...why is the focus now on this particular company? It smacks of an ad.

    And one last thought: in this era of SarBox, is distributed storage really what large companies want? We've been moving toward centralizing (with a backup site, of course) and tightening our controls, as opposed to distributing things. And for the size of company mentioned, 500 or more desktops...I have to believe there's a large enough IT budget that they aren't going to be using desktops to store enterprise data. This strikes me as a screwdriver with a unique head still looking for a screw that it fits.
    • It's just another take on cluster storage

      I write about stuff I think is cool, and as I mentioned, some other companies are
      doing reasonably similar things. Seanodes didn't as much attention because their
      solution is limited to Linux servers. Cleversafe is less similar and has a different
      go-to-market strategy.

      IT always wants to centralize, which is great as long as you can afford it. To me,
      having a safe, secure backup system that uses stuff you've already got should be
      pretty popular with folks, like financial firms, that have thousands of low-duty-
      cycle desktops. RevStor has to prove their claims, but in theory this is just another
      clustered storage system just like the ones people are buying now.

      R Harris
  • in other news

    we use our personal car on average less than an hour a day.
    The rest of 23+ hours we can rent it so we can make a buck and promote reusing. ;)
    Linux Geek
  • Management

    Theoretically seems a good idea, the fact of encrypting, hiding and dividing the files is even better because a workstation user would not be directly related to the secured data, but (there's always a but), one of the reasons datacenters exists is because of the enhaced security. I mean, in a datacenter there is noone using the servers to read (potentially infected) emails, word documents, etc, activities that seriously threaten data safety. So, yes, you have a lot of unused infrastructure, let's say 80% acording to the article, but I bet less than 20% of that 80% is reliable to begin with. In an ideal world, and as a programmer trained to reuse, this would be an ideal solution, but in a world where anyone use its office computer to read tender but dangerous power point presentations (yes, they make you laugh before they infect you with a worm), this solution is not cost effective. IMHO.
  • RE: The data center on your desktop

    Not workable. Management has no control over individual users leaving their workstations running, potentially making data access over the network impossible. If they want to save power and money, they should deploy stripped-down network computers with relatively small memories and no hard drive, using the BIOS to boot directly to the network. Local storage, if needed at all, could be handled with USB Flash drives or small, detachable USB hard drives.
    Tony R.
  • Perfomance: Corporate BitTorrent and 500 MHz PII?

    I take issue with this:

    SANware is designed to be invisible to users. It doesn???t reduce the desktop???s available space - if you need to suddenly import a 100 GB video you can. SANware simply replicates from remaining copies to maintain your desired fault tolerance.

    SANware only uses resources when the system is idle. It won???t interfere with your fantasy baseball league and other important business functions. It is so light weight that it is usable on a 500 MHz Pentium 2.>>

    How badly does SANware suck up bandwith?

    I am a student of CPUs and don't recall any Pentium II faster than 450 MHz. I've recently seen guidelines that prohibit desktop PCs with less than a "400 MHz Pentium III" CPU (which doesn't exist, either), and have worked in computer recycling centers full of 500 MHz Pentium IIIs. But a 400 MHz PIII? It sounds like something one would see in a scam eBay auction with "rare vintage prototype l@@k" in the title.
  • As a reformed IT Admin . . .

    Russ with RevStor. Many great comments and great discussions on this post. Just a couple of answers:

    1. The world and the computer have changed DRAMATICALLY over the past 10 years in that computers are exponentially more powerful, but used less as the demands of the average corporate user have not kept pace with the power sitting in front of them.

    2. If you are an all laptop company - not the product for you. You would be better off with either a "cloud" or datacenter solution.

    3. Since data is sliced up and encrypted, there is no way that a virus or spyware/malware could survive as the code must be complete to execute. You could actually store that funny yet dangerous powerpoint safely on this.

    4. Reliability for desktops/laptops suck, no two ways about it. However, the reliability of the network and all computers on it as a whole is phenomenal, better than most servers. Since the app is both self-healing and self-managing, it doesn't ever rely on any one or even 10 computers being up.

    Just wanted to answer a few of the questions. I'm sure I didn't do it completely, but if you have any other responses or issues, please post them and I'll answer.
  • RE: The data center on your desktop

    I work with small business and they traditionally do not have data centers, more like data closets.

    One of the key issues for small businesses is Archiving of old/stale data. Most of my clients are backing up to disks - as the prices have dropped and a 1TB SATA disk is inexpensive. However, adding a disk does not protect the old data.

    SANware is a product I think will help small business archive data using the LAN and surplus storage - while reducing the backup load.

    From what I understand - a 10 node system is the minimum. These nodes need not even be desktops - they could be off-lease or just plain old PCs sitting in a data closet connected to the LAN.

    Thus, I think the "data center on your PC" is a bit of a stretch. As with any tool/resource - one needs to look at it's capabilities and features, before delivering it as a solution.

    Before shooting it down...try the eval and see what it can do. I am.


    Tim Whitney, CTA