17 July, 2014

ownCloud 7 awesomeness

One of the things I love from the Free and Open Source software world is that doing things in the open simply leads to better solutions. Resources are often constrained, polish might be lacking, but frequently from the seemingly chaotic processes emerges brilliance.

The upcoming ownCloud 7 has one of those things: server to server sharing. You see, for a long time, I and others have been asking the ownCloud desktop client developers for a feature: support for syncing multiple ownCloud installations. That way, files from our corporate ownCloud installation (of course we dogfood here at ownCloud Inc.!) and my private ownCloud could both be synced to my desktop and laptop. Unfortunately, while it has been on the todo for a while, it just kept pushed down by more urgent feature work.

While you could get it to work already by running multiple clients and playing with the config file locations, it seemed a bit brittle to me and I just accepted this feature wasn't there yet.

Only today, during my bike ride to c-base, did I realize that ownCloud 7 actually introduces this feature. And I even wrote a sneak preview about it! It is the server to server sharing that solves this issue.

What is Server to Server sharing?

Let's step back. What is the major thing that 'private' clouds don't have which public clouds do? Other than the NSA snooping, that is...

Well, you're all alone, of course. If you want to share a file with another student from uni, you have to create an account or use a shared link. He/she will then have to visit your ownCloud to be able to work with you. It gets quickly messy with a lot of files.


This is where Server to Server sharing comes in. You can simply share a link and your collaboration partner can add this, either a folder or a single file, to his or her own ownCloud. They can put the file wherever they want in their folder structure (we've gotten rid of that rigid shared folder concept in ownCloud 7!) and work with you like the file was on their own instance.

That means they can also locally sync the file with their sync client by just putting it in a folder that is synced!

Boom. You don't have to create and manage multiple server accounts in your sync client, creating a folder on your system for each server you work with. No, you just add the share to your ownCloud and put the files wherever you want - in one folder, or grouped by subject - whatever works best.

Now tell me that isn't awesome ;-)

There's more

Of course, this is just a first step to bringing ownCloud servers closer to each other. Our goal is full 'federation' of data: transparent sharing between servers so they can act as one cloud, protecting privacy while giving you the convenience of sharing, collaborating and communicating with friends, family, collegues and more. Once you connected to another ownCloud, you should be able to share files with the users on that server seemlessly - and other data, like contacts or music! You should be notified when things are shared (a news feed!) and be able to comment and chat. This however still needs work. If you're interested in helping to make this happen, consider joining us at the ownCloud Contributor Conference from August 26-31 in Berlin, Germany!


* Note that you can have kind-of server-to-server sharing with ownCloud 6 by manually mounting folders from other servers via webdav. This of course comes with various limitations (you do have to give out webdav credentials, to name one) so the new server to server sharing is a massive improvement...