Western Digital And ownCloud Team Up To Bring ownCloud to Home Users

We want to provide people with a safe home for their data and self hosting is key. When WDLABS, a division of Western Digital focused on accelerating new solutions, approached Frank with an idea for collaboration, we kicked off a project. We will create a self-hosted device with Western Digital hardware and ownCloud software, to […]

putting it together

Putting the kit together


We want to provide people with a safe home for their data and self hosting is key. When WDLABS, a division of Western Digital focused on accelerating new solutions, approached Frank with an idea for collaboration, we kicked off a project. We will create a self-hosted device with Western Digital hardware and ownCloud software, to be made available for on-line purchase in early 2016. In preparation for this we’re looking for people who want to help us lower the barrier to self hosting and help turn this dream into reality. We have 10 test devices available for these brave adventurers!

Barriers and Solutions

At ownCloud, we are always looking for ways to lower the barrier to entry, get our technology into more hands, and give more people a safe home for their data. Of course, there are ownCloud providers which already serve well over a million users across 6 continents, but the ability to easily run ownCloud at home is important to many of our users. We’ve been working on this problem on the software side but still, you had to provide a computer as server for it all to work.

The Western Digital Labs team contacted us looking to work together with the ownCloud community on offering a self hosted device running ownCloud pre-installed out of the box. Our end goal is to provide a solution for non-technical end users, something which requires few skills to set up.

They provided us with 10 early prototypes to get started with. We’d like to give them out to community members who are serious about helping home users run their ownCloud server. The goal is to kick off the creation of the software needed for the self hosted ownCloud Server on the device. Based on the feedback and results we’ll proceed with a bigger run of hundreds of devices which can be acquired by home users online in the first months of 2016. And from there – who knows?

The prototypes contain all the parts to set up a small server including a Raspberry Pi 2, a 1TB hard drive, connecting cables and and case as well as an SDHC card with pre-installed with an ownCloud image (berryboot based) and a small manual. While this version is a beta, we want to build upon the flexibility. For example, there are ways to have more than one hard drive, use boards like the Banana Pi, pre-assemble the set and so on.

The whole kit laid out

The whole kit laid out

connected the cables

Connected the cables

The Challenge

With this set, you can put together a nice home server in about 10 minutes. The setup is designed to be simple; connect the cables, put the SD card in the Pi and stuff the whole setup in the case. You’ll end up with a neat package where cables come out of the back and the top is open for ventilation. A single power supply takes care of both the Pi and the hard drive.

To get ownCloud started with the current prototype, you’ll have to connect a monitor or TV to the HDMI port and a keyboard over USB to boot up the ownCloud image and configure it. What we’re looking for is ways to do the setup without requiring the monitor/keyboard. The best would be that users just connect the device to their router/modem and run a tool or script from their laptop to finish the configuration. Or, less ideal but doable, first connect to the device via the Ethernet cable directly before plugging it in the router. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done before it is such a plug-and-play affair.

Once things are up and running with the default setup, performance won’t be great. We’d love to have an image with a decent, modern PHP, pre-configured caching and a fast database, a build in backup tool and so on.

This is where you come in! We’re looking for concrete proposals and offers for help. Can you build a disk image which boots up and allows a laptop to find it over the local network? Can you create a setup optimized for performance on the Pi? Can you write a simple web interface to finish configuring the Pi or to check how it is running? Develop a backup tool? We’re looking for creativity here!

Subscribe to the ownCloud developer mailing list and send us a proposal. We will discuss and choose the most important and viable proposals. Those will get a prototype send home. 4-6 weeks after they arrive, we expect each of the winners to work with us on publishing a blog post about what they have accomplished: improved performance, an easy configuration process design, written a web interface and so on. Of course, the results will be used: while separate apps can be made available in the app store and performance improvements can be integrated in ownCloud or put in the documentation, the real test is in the image we build for the first five hundred ownCloud home servers which WD will make available. Then we will see if your parents buy it, can they get their ownCloud up and running?

The rules:

  • You’ve got until December 17 to write in a proposal, but earlier is always better. How long it is we leave up to you. Send it to the devel mailing list and be responsive to requests for clarification and feedback! We will also post more information there so it’s smart to get subscribed as soon as you can!
  • You don’t have to be a well known ownCloud developer or even active in the community – if this is new to you, awesome! You don’t need heavy programming skills either, if you have experience scripting and building VM images your help is incredibly valuable!
  • We pick the best proposals and send out the packages on December 19. Yup, with some luck you get your kit before Christmas! Should make for a fun project over the holidays.
  • Work in the open: report to the devel list, put your code on github and so on.
  • Build on the work from others rather than start from scratch. For example, we already have a set of scripts to build VM images with extensive automation in GitHub.
  • By the end of January we’ll get in contact and work together on getting a blog out covering the results of your project.
  • Sometime in February or March you can expect ownCloud and Western Digital Labs to release a goodie – and you will be there with a big thank-you in the manual!

Can you help people take their data home?

The final box.

The final prototype box put together. Will this be an easy to use ownCloud server?

The fine print:

  • Anybody can participate, but we will pick the people who get a device and there will be no corresponding or discussing the matter after the choices are made.
  • If you missed out on a prototype, we might create more and send them to you. Even if we don’t manage to do that, get your own Raspberry Pi or use your existing computer and get coding!
  • The goal is that you use the devices to help develop this ownCloud-for-everybody, nothing more, nothing less
  • This is a project of the ownCloud community, not ownCloud, Inc.
  • The goal of this device is home users, not enterprise users. Of course we’d be glad with their support.

Edit: please check our blog with an update on the WD Pi project for more details!

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