data transferring to the cloud

FOSE 2014

FASP transfer protocol speeds data transmission to the cloud

While the government uses the cloud to store everything from genomic sequences to climate data, the transfer speeds going into or coming out of any cloud are extremely slow compared to sharing data between more traditional storage media.

FOSE 2014

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And those speeds won’t change anytime soon, according to Jay Migliaccio, Aspera’s director of cloud services, unless agencies start to invest in new transit protocols.

Migliaccio, speaking at the FOSE 2014 conference presented by 1105 Media, explained that the problem is inherent in the way local wide-area networks handle storage compared to the way that it's done in the cloud.

WANs can use the Internet’s core Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) when transferring files because the local hard drives, the network attached storage devices and just about every non-cloud based storage medium uses the same method of linearly storing data. However, the cloud uses an object-based storage scheme. When moving a file into the cloud, the transfer has to be done using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is inherently challenging with very large file sizes.

"To move a 1 terabyte file up to the cloud, you basically have to break it down into thousands of parts to be compatible with the cloud's object-based storage system. And that is neither fast nor efficient."

To address this problem, Aspera, which is owned by IBM, created a protocol that is able to bridge the gap between normal storage and the cloud. Built on the fast and secure protocol (FASP), which is already used by many agencies for large data transfers, the new service, called Aspera On Demand, creates a fast pathway to the cloud. "We can transfer files directly to the object storage area of the cloud as if the file was landing on a disk," Migliaccio said.

And it's not just about raw speed. The new protocol is built on an open architecture that that can be embedded into any program or application. Developers can then control the speed of transfers, giving more bandwidth to higher-tier customers or scaling back when multiple transfers are taking place. Migliaccio compared that to a car, in which control is as important as speed.

Government users will likely be interested in the fact that transfers with the new protocol can be made with encrypted files. "You can have the file be unencrypted on the other end if you want, but still protect it during transport, "Migliaccio said. "Or you can have it remain encrypted so that it's protected within the cloud," which he added might be an attractive option for agencies making use of public clouds for storage.

In terms of speed differences between TCP and Aspera On Demand, Migliaccio said the best one can hope for with a typical transfer of a large file to the cloud was about 100 megabytes per second. But with Aspera On Demand, obtaining speeds of up to 1 gigabit/sec is fairly standard.

Agencies interested in using Aspera On Demand to speed up their transfers of data to the cloud can find it as part of the Amazon Web Services, where it is available to rent by the hour or by the gigabyte. It's also available through Microsoft Azure as a full blown service. It's FIPS-140-2 certified and uses AES-128 bit encryption, though Migliaccio said it would soon be upgraded to 256-bit encryption. 

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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