Singapore research project aims to make cloud storage more efficient

Following the launch of its R&D lab in Singapore last year, Acronis has now embarked on a joint research project with A*Star's Data Storage Institute to develop technology that aims to slash data storage by half.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Acronis has launched its first joint research initiative with A*Star's Data Storage Institute (DSI) that aims to make cloud storage more efficient and eliminate redundant data.

The announcement follows the launch of its R&D lab in Singapore last July, when the storage vendor said it would invest more than S$55 million in R&D here over the next five years. In a previous ZDNet report, Acronis had also revealed it was in discussions with A*Star and Economic Development Board on five joint research projects focused on cloud backup optimisation and software-defined data storage, among others.

Specifically, the initiative with DSI would look at scalable deduplication (dedupe) of distributed data storage, an essential technology to eradicate redundant data and reduce cloud storage consumption.

In an e-mail interview, Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov explained most existing dedup technologies were developed for single-node storage systems and, hence, might not work well in a cloud environment.

"Distributed data storage presents a new set of challenges, such as scalability, redundancy, reliability, and fault tolerance, where single-node dedupe methods cannot be applied," Beloussov said. "There hasn't been done much in this area by any other party, so much of what is being developed in Singapore is...designed to process very large, and exponentially growing, data volumes."

He noted that the core joint research team, comprising five Acronis' software engineers and DSI's research scientists, would be working on the main project concepts until October this year. With plans to invest some S$20 million in R&D in Singapore over the next two to three years, he added that this would be the first of several research initiatives the two organisations would be involved in.

The initial investment in this research programme would come from Acronis, with the resulting technology to be used primarily in the vendor's products. Details from the research, when completed, also could be published and made available to the general scientific community, Beloussov said.

"The next phases of the research will likely lead to patents development," he said. "It is a vibrant research area and it can have applications for both parties in terms of capabilities development and even real technological breakthroughs. The research will help Acronis further advance our products, but the ultimate objective of the series of research that has started with this one is broader. It will help the industry in general to efficiently deal with the ever growing data volumes, and benefit the scientific community, too."

Citing stats from IDC, he said global data volumes were expected to expand by 40 percent each year, hitting 44 zettabytes by 2020. Some 20 percent of this would be stored in the cloud. Beloussov noted, adding that this would drive stronger demand for efficient storage with advanced data dedupe technology able to better support cloud applications.

"The main goal of this research is to develop an efficient data deduplication technology for the cloud. This involves studying and extending existing and creating new deduplication architectures for distributed data storage," he explained.

"The research team is looking for unique approaches and breakthroughs in optimising distributed data storage methods. According to our estimates, the new technology has a potential to reduce stored data volumes by half," he said.

Furthermore, with data dedupe a multifaceted discipline, he said the research could be applied in other areas such as data security, data transfer protocols, and datacenter efficiency. More efficient storage systems, for instance, could be developed to provide customisation levels of redundancy, This would enable administrators to more efficiently manage various storage systems with different security requirements to support different storage usage.

Acronis said its Singapore R&D facility would focus on technologies in the areas of data storage and processing, data security, mobile data protection, optimised secure data transfer protocols, as well as blockchain-based tools for secure distributed storage.

According to the vendor, plans are underway to launch additional joint research projects with its other local partners "in the coming months".

Beloussov said: "Singapore is a unique country for universities and other institutes of higher learning, with A*Star and state-run programs like smart nation, putting it at the level of leading countries in the world for its potential for technology innovation."

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