Saturday, March 11

Is Google planning to relocate your disk storage?

Fred the NYCVC has been musing on the rumours that Google plans to announce a virtual drive product, called 'Gdrive' - place to backup and maybe even store the main edition of all your data. Fred points out that there's a bunch of other competing services out there, but so far, none of them have cracked mainstream.

Why not? Well, it's a guess, but it may be because they're crippled by their own success - too many customers storing too much data too far from the originating PC equals a lot of bandwidth, and a lot of bandwidth still doesn't come cheap. At least, not as cheap as disk space.

To really tweak all the potential out of a virtual drive service, you want to own as much as possible of the network that sits between the server and the PC. You want to already be hosting a lot of data for a lot of people. To keep costs low, if you don't own the cable, you want to put data centres as close to the customer as possible. You also need a strong consumer presence to market such a service.

Who fits the bill? Google, possibly. If you believe the plausible rumours that Google has been buying up redundant fibre capacity and prototyping its own shipping-container-sized mini-data centres. Google also has the broad consumer audience (though a less successful track-record getting its customer to use anything other than search, where Yahoo! beats it.)

Google still designs interfaces for maths PhDs, not for baby boomers and tweens. Lately, even Microsoft products have looked friendlier than Google's. So Google would be well advised to acquire something like Omnidrive to give it a friendly-enough face for widespread consumer adoption.

Virtual drivespace is going to be driven by herd mentality. Nobody's going to try it until they think everyone is trying it, and then suddenly everyone will be trying it. Gdrive needs a friendlier retail face for this product or it'll remain as mainstream as, say, Froogle.

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