Microsoft eyes remote access to sleepy PCs

Liam Tung | Feb 27, 2012 12:59 AM
Looks to address cloud trust deficit.

Microsoft researchers have begun looking for an alternative to cloud-based document syncing for remote access to personal files, in an attempt to address continuing distrust in the services by some.

The researchers, at Microsoft’s UK Cambridge research arm with Carnegie Mellon University, have detailed their work on a distributed file system, dubbed ZZFS, that may one day provide the processes to support remote access to files on a device that is turned off.

The file system addresses criticisms of Microsoft's Windows sync service, LiveMesh, and cloud storage platform SkyDrive, allowing a person to access desktop files when they have forgotten to sync it or do not trust a cloud service to hold their information.

Carnegie Mellon researcher Michelle Mazurek said the underlying principles of the group’s research was that “you don’t always want to put all of your data in the cloud and give it to Google or some other corporation”, MIT’s Technology Review reported.

The ZZFS application is supported by a network interface card (NIC) prototype called Somniloquy (which means "sleep talking") that sits within the storage system of a machine and retains its network connectivity when dormant.

The card -- which contains a “few [gigabytes] of flash storage” and runs an embedded Linux distribution on a low-powered processor -- was only tested on Windows Vista and 7 and cannot currently wake up a machine that is turned off, only one in standby mode.

The work appears to dovetail with Microsoft’s recent announcement that its Windows 8 SkyDrive cloud storage application could be used to convert a PC into a personal cloud for accessing files that had not been synced to SkyDrive, so long as the desktop is “running” SkyDrive.

Microsoft pointed out that the SkyDrive remote access feature was for the “enthusiast” that have “always-on” PCs, as opposed to the masses that likely do not.