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Rackspace is developing a storage-in-the-cloud service called CloudFS for web 2.0, SaaS (software-as-a-service) and social networking media customers needing highly scalable storage.

Software developers will be able to store, backup and access their files and content in the cloud as will their applications built using Java, .Net, PHP and Ruby on Rails.

Rackspace is a US hosting services supplier offering, for example, e-mail hosting, through its Mosso hosting division.

John Engates, Rackspace Hosting's CTO, said: “Customers’ needs are expanding, and one of our key initiatives right now is making web-scale computing as value-added and as easy as possible. We believe that linking storage — an essential element of most Internet applications — and fast access to stored data, to a powerful standards-based infrastructure will become a critical business advantage for our customers.”

The main competition is Amazon's S3 storage cloud service. There is potential for the backup aspect of CloudFs to develop as a self-contained service, which would bring Rackspace into competition with EMC's Mozy, Carbonite, Nirvanix and other cloud-based data protection service suppliers.

CloudFS is entering a first phase beta test with up to 100 customers. A second and more open beta test phase will commence later in the year.

The charging structure is not simple. It starts at $0.15/GB but then customers will pay read and write fees based on the number of I/O operations per stored object. A further bandwidth fee will be charged if the customer is not a user of Rackspace's other hosted services, making it difficult for customers to calculate their ultimate costs.

The idea is that a cloud storage resource is cheaper than using your own storage infrastructure. Making this a perceivable reality may mean that the pricing structure will have to become more transparent.

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