As we hurtle towards the cloud, it is becoming increasingly crucial that we remain in charge of our data, of our cloud. And that's where ownCloud comes in. This Open Source project, which was founded in Germany, is now a well funded, full-fledged company headquartered in the US and Germany.
The company today announced the release of ownCloud 8.1, which comes with many notable features and improvements. As Frank Karlitschek, the founder of ownCloud, told me, “ownCloud 8.1 is a big step forward in several areas. We closed a ton of bugs, improved the syncing performance by a factor of 4x and streamlined the user interface to make it easier to use. Another important point is that it is now easier for 3rd party app developers to publish their apps for ownCloud and make them available in ownCloud for every user. But the thing I’m most excited about is that we saw a huge number of new contributors joining the ownCloud community. For me this is the most important thing because it shows that ownCloud will grow even faster in the future."
There are two versions of ownCloud: a community edition and an enterprise edition. This one is a community release, which will be used as the foundation for the enterprise release.
So what's new in ownCloud 8.1?
Encryption 2.0: ownCloud 8.1 comes with what the company calls 'encryption 2.0', a new modular framework for encryption that ownCloud asserts "will enable previously unheard of flexibility for organizations with complex and changing encryption requirements."
What it means for end users is that they will be able to adopt any encryption standard for their ownCloud set-up. Customers can also write a server app to meet their encryption requirements.
Federated Cloud ID: ownCloud has introduced the concept or Federated ID, which allows its users to share files with each other, even if they reside on different ownCloud installations.
Users can add other peoples’ Federated Cloud IDs to their address book for auto completion in share box (just the way your email addresses autocomplete). This feature makes it easier to share files as you don’t have to remember IDs of people you want to share with.
ownCloud Documents: One of the features that I loved from ownCloud was ownCloud Document, which offers 'almost' Google Docs like capabilities. This service is powered by another Open Source project called WebODF. ownCloud 8.1 comes with the latest upstream version of WebODF so users will be able to use features such as annotations support and new styling capabilities.
The company claims that changes to the codebase have improved performance. According to the company blog, "...ownCloud servers can now handle up to 50% more users on the same hardware as an ownCloud 8.0 server could, while syncing large numbers of files and file operations, for example moving or deleting files is up to four times as fast."
When I inquired about the background of these improvements, Jos Poortvliet, the community Manager of ownCloud told me, “In the last half year we've been using performance testing tools like BlackFire to identify bottlenecks in ownCloud performance. We also have been getting feedback from the ever-growing ownCloud deployments (like the 500,000 students in Germany) and we've been working with CERN on testing and performance improvements in the client. All this has resulted in significant and noticeable performance increases.
Emerging as a platform
Since ownCloud is emerging as a platform, they are separating many features from the core and offering them via apps and APIs. The company will be disclosing more info later this week but they say that "over 190 new functions became available while 50 older ones were replaced."
The latest version is available immediately for download and installation.
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