What is Federation
The term Federation is used in computing to describe a group of servers acting as a single system. Email is a good example of a federated system; while you might be on a private sendmail server, you can email people on a Google server using a unique address based on their user name and the server they are on. Different ownCloud servers can also do this, allowing users to share files like they were on the same server, while in fact they are all on different ownCloud servers.
You can learn more about federation and why it is important in a series of blog posts by ownCloud project founder and ownCloud, Inc. co-founder and CTO. Frank Karlitschek, published on the ownCloud.com blog:
- He describes the value of federation in part one: It is Time to Federate Our Clouds
- In part two, The Next Generation File Sync and Share Technology, he explains how Federated Cloud Sharing is about connecting private clouds into one network
- The final blog, The Federated Architecture of Next Generation File Sync and Share, describes the architecture of a federated file sync and share cloud and where we currently stand with that.
In addition, today Frank proposed a draft of a Federated Cloud Sharing API to the Open Cloud Mesh working group with the goal of jump-starting a discussion about what is needed to enable federation between different file sharing implementations. Sharing among ownClouds is great, but the true power of a federated file cloud is available when you can share among different implementations seamlessly, because you all speak the same common language. This is the goal of the Open Cloud Mesh working group (of which ownCloud is a member as well), and outside of that, drafts have been shared with a number of well known standards organizations around web technologies and fellow open source file share and sync projects to get the work started.
If you are interested in the draft API, grab it from Frank’s blog. You can provide feedback on the draft there as well. If you’re active in a open or closed file sync and share project, your input is especially valuable – we’d love to see this API adopted by other projects so users can seamlessly share across clouds!
While the ultimate goal of the Open Cloud Mesh is to standardize how federated file clouds communicate, we are also practical here at ownCloud and have already implemented first generation Federated Cloud sharing. While it is still early, take a look below and see how you can use the future today with ownCloud Server 8.1!
Sharing in Action
The video below gives you a quick demonstration of how Federated Cloud Sharing works in ownCloud today.
More Ways of Sharing
Essentially, there are two ways to use Federated Cloud Sharing with ownCloud. Shown in the video above is the most direct way, sharing a file or folder via the share dialog by simply entering the Federated Cloud ID of the recipient in the input box:
If you have added the Federated Cloud ID of the user you want to share with to your address book, the share dialog will even auto-complete the ID:
The target user will, in both cases, be notified when he/she loads the files app:
The other way of sharing is by simply sending a public share link. ownCloud users have the ability to save these shares to their ownCloud server:
As you see, using the Federated Cloud Sharing is really easy– as easy as sending an email. Easier, even; if you don’t know the Federated Cloud ID of the other user, you can still send them a public link!
You simply enable and disable Federated Cloud Sharing under the option of the same name in the Admin configuration:
The administrator documentation has many more details and tips.
We hope you enjoy sharing between clouds!