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NoSQL biz Basho attempts to woo developers with code

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Riak database stewards at Basho have released their multi-tenant high-availability cloud storage technology as open source under the Apache 2 licence - but to what end?

Perhaps it's because new technologies need to experience widespread adoption before they can have much of an effect on the IT used by many companies, and exposing the guts of a piece of software can draw a crowd of developers to pick over the internals. This generates interest, which leads to use, which eventually yields cash, or so Basho bosses are hoping.

The company announced today it will publish its Riak Cloud Storage code as open source in an attempt to assure the system's relevance in a market swamped with rival NoSQL storage choices. It's the same strategy adopted by other companies, such as Netflix via its open source initiatives, or Rackspace's de facto takeover of traditional open source cloud storage models via its vigorous involvement in OpenStack.

But will it work - do people need another cloud storage system? Some might - the RiakCS technology has some characteristics that set it apart from other systems out there.

Because Riak Cloud Storage is based on open-source Riak, it has inherited many of that database's popular characteristics, such as: fault-tolerance, multi-tenancy, per-user reporting, robust stats, high availability and, most importantly of all, a software interface and authentication system compatible with the most popular commercial cloud storage product – Amazon Web Services's S3.

Some of these features let the system work as an intermediary between the open source world's two main cloud platforms – Citrix-backed CloudStack, and the world-plus-dog-backed OpenStack.

"CloudStack and OpenStack have really taken off [and] created very large ecosystems of enterprises that are interested in this type of functionality," Shanley Kane, a product manager at Basho, told The Register.

"From a technical perspective RiakCS is unique in terms of its distributed systems principals. Riak is battle-tested, built on Amazon principles from the Dynamo paper. There's no other storage product in the market that can claim to have that foundation."

Because RiakCS has native S3 compatibility, it can be used by admins of either platform as a stable, multi-tenant platform through which to interface with Amazon.

"We are the Switzerland. We want everyone to use RiakCS – not just people from one camp or the other," Kane said, before noting Riak has a "more mature" partnership with CloudStack.

This summer Basho plans to introduce support for the Cloudstack API and authentication scheme, but is working on doing the equivalent for OpenStack and does not have a date as yet.

Alongside the release of the software, Basho announced a new feature that makes it easier to load in large files to the platform by letting administrators split them up into parts between 5MB and 5GB in size.

Other additional features include support for GET range queries, per-bucket policies to help admins control who sees what, and the launch of a web administration tool for user management named RiakCS Control.

Basho is keeping back a couple of important features for the paid-for version of the product, including its multi-datacenter replication feature, and the company has no plans to publish that as open source any time soon, Kane confirmed.

"In the coming weeks and months, we look forward to helping new users get started with Riak CS and be successful running it in production," the company wrote in a statement.

"We'll be expanding integration and partnerships with open source cloud computing platforms in order to provide integrated storage and compute to the marketplace. As always, we'll be listening to feedback, engaging with the community and accepting pull requests."

Riak has always been one of the more eccentric NoSQL systems. While technologies like MongoDB have claimed widespread developer adoption, Riak has laboured away in the background notching up a few big corporate wins. It is able to count Best Buy, Comcast, and Github among its customers. Yet not many developers seem to use it.

By publishing RiakCS as open source, the company is hoping to give more developers a reason to stay up to speed on the platform and, hopefully, develop applications that link it to other, larger parts of the open-source ecosystem where it can flower. ®

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