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La Cie heads to Switzerland to get into the cloud

Buying Caleido and doing the Wuala

Desk-based peripherals vendor La Cie is getting into the cloud by merging with Swiss online storage house Caleido.

Paris and Portland, Oregon-based La Cie makes neat, minimalist external disk drives and other peripherals. The boxes are designed by Neil Poulton and feature elegant sharp-edged rectangular shapes with smooth glossy exteriors and funky blue lighting effects. They offer Apple-like style for both PCs and Macs, have ridden the 250GB-500GB-750GB-1TB SATA hard drive capacity curve and also had features added to enter the domestic media playing scene, as well as acting as a local backup resource for desktops and notebooks.

Caleido is a Swiss company offering a free online social storage service with files being broken up into encrypted parts and stored across a grid of connected computers, a cloud. The service is called Wuala and provides the usual file, fiolder, digital media content backup service with web access from anywhere and content sharing with friends. Only yesterday Symantec announced its Norton Online Service to do this and there is a whole raft of similar international and national service offerings from Mozy, Carbonite, Spare Backup and others.

In a novel twist Wuala "users start with 1 GB of storage but can get as much as they want, either by trading idle disk space or by buying additional storage." Luzius Meisser, a Caleido co-founder said, "Wuala ... builds its reliable and secure cloud storage by harnessing idle resources."

The company describes its offering thus: "Wuala users can choose to contribute idle resources to Wuala. In addition to servers, Wuala can harness these resources. All data is first encrypted and then split into fragments which are redundantly stored on our servers and in the grid network. This allows us to save costs for downloads (bandwidth, electrical power) and thus to provide a better service for free, with a number of advantages that others just can't offer: unlimited traffic, no file size limits, fast downloads, and so on."

Dominik Grolimund, a co-creator of Wuala, said: "A robust rights management system protects files from unauthorized access. We will also bring this technology to enterprises and professional customers, who will soon take advantage of our services with both cloud and data center-based storage."

Ah, that's the business, then. LaCie plans to implement this cloud storage technology into its range of storage devices, offering a combination of local device storage for fast access, and secured remote storage on the cloud, for easy sharing and enhanced backup.

In fact LaCie has tentatively dipped its toe into cloud storage already and this move confirms its strategy here.

La Cie's founder and CEO, Philippe Spruch, pleased as could be, said: "For 20 years, LaCie massively promoted hard drive technologies; today, as a leader on storage market, we will be a first mover in the next leading technologies: flash-based storage, and cloud storage. With this merger, LaCie will morph from a pure hardware manufacturer to a solution provider. These new technologies will be amazing for our customers and will enhance their experience."

Pity about the "solution provider" market-speak but what he means is clear enough.

Disk drive manufacturer Seagate has its online eVault service. It seems pretty stratightforward to conclude that external disk drive storage suppliers to desktop, notebook and small business server owners will have to start offering a local storage-remote cloud storage combo offering. Will the Buffalo roar in this direction? Is Western Digital heading towards the clouds? Will Toshiba? Hitachi GST?

And did you see that point about flash in the La Cie guy's quote?

Verbatim's Hans Christoph Kaiser, EMEA business development manager, didn't laugh away the idea of a local storage box combining flash solid state storage speed, bulk SATA disk storage and a link to a cloud storage facility. We're all gonna get tiered and suppliers who don't go that route risk having their products niched, nipped and tucked away into irrelevance. ®

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