Data elements should be stored like atoms and molecules, self-bonding into data structures like files and objects, and held in capsules forming a universal storage entity accessible from anywhere. That’s the concept of Cosnim, a Canadian startup that claims to have a new approach to storage with a universal and distributed data storage engine offering file, object and database access using data elements bonded together like atoms and molecules.
Update. The Nebula term has been replaced by Continuum in Cosnim documentation. 14 March 2023.
COO Leon Parsaud told B&F: “We have developed a patented solution that can store data across multiple clouds while providing additional features such as time travel (infinite resolution of your data at any point in time), ransomware protection and enhanced cost savings.”
Cosnim’s features include:
- Ransomware and outages protection – continuously shields data everywhere from common threats using robust and fully immutable storage.
- Store anywhere, no servers or appliances – store and distribute your data on any combination of cloud, datacenter and local storage, no vendor lock-in. Everything is managed in software running directly on client devices and services.
- Absolute cloud confidentiality – everything about your data is encrypted directly on your own devices, metadata included, before it’s sent anywhere. Since there are no servers, your data and encryption keys always stay 100 percent private.
- Time-travel – access any past data instantly. Examine any of your past data at any point in time, instantly, at any resolution. It’s as if you had sub-second backups, archives and snapshots at every possible moment. No delays, no restores.
- Fast integration – all your files are accessible directly through your OS as if it was local storage, wherever your data is actually stored, in the cloud, your datacenter or elsewhere. All transparently, greatly reducing the complexity of migrating and accessing data in the cloud.
- Unified storage – live storage, backups, snapshots, archives and versions are all integrated and maintained in a single unified storage system distributed across the cloud and datacenters, simplifying data and storage management.
- Cost reduction – Cosnim claims its design consumes significantly less raw storage and network egress charges compared to other technologies.
We were given a Cosnim Technology Primer document explaining these concepts. It talks about distributing data in the cloud and claims: “The primary reason why decentralized storage management is so complex and difficult is that we’re still basically managing data as if they were pieces of paper.”
For example: “Backups are essentially the electronic equivalent of taking photocopies of pages and then putting them in archival boxes; replication is the equivalent of sending photocopies to a remote office, tracking and re-sending copies if the original is altered; servers are the equivalent of comptrollers, which carefully coordinate and centralize the view of the data; even journaled filesystems and blockchain are based on basic ledger concepts, albeit with a few twists.”
Data atoms and molecules
Cosnim believes we need to move away from this paper-based origin and think of data as “self-governing elements, forming free bonds between each other to build a self-supporting structure, much the same way atoms bind themselves together to form large, complex molecules.” Cosnim treats all fundamental pieces of data in this way.
When storing files, “Cosnim breaks up the file’s contents into fragments and binds them all together with metadata and control information, which are also elements. Elements are then packaged into one or more capsules (which may contain other unrelated elements) and bonded in turn with other capsules in the Nebula.”
A Nebula is a mesh of inter-related elements and capsules, similar to large molecules built from smaller molecules and atoms. Cosnim has patented processes and proprietary algorithms to manage these bonds, which enables “capsules and their data to be freely stored and distributed anywhere in the cloud or on local devices, on any number and type of storage, without any tracking of their physical location.”
Capsules are physically stored on storage stations through which users connect to the system (Nebula). “There are no central servers, clusters, or peer-to-peer communication. Everything is held together and managed entirely through capsules and the bonds that form the Nebula.”
“When data is updated, instead of physically replacing or updating actual storage units such as blocks or files, Cosnim creates small new elements and ever so slightly alters the mesh to integrate this new data, leaving all other components intact. There is no fixed location for any of the data; any storage station and capsule are fully capable of carrying everything.”
We asked Cosnim a question about metadata storage: “With Cosnim’s distributed data elements making up, for example, a file, there has to be metadata describing how the file elements are to be combined in a file. Where is this metadata stored please? In a central place? How does a local storage engine know how to build the file when access to it is requested – if the elements making up the file are distributed?”
Guy Sabourin, CEO, CTO and co-founder, told us: “In Cosnim, data, data fragments, metadata and control information are all part of our mesh, which we call a ‘continuum’, and everything is stored in general-purpose capsules. Capsules are stored themselves in a universal format about anywhere, as cloud objects, files, database records or raw storage. The actual storage location is irrelevant to Cosnim, all we care is to have a place where the capsules can be stored and retrieved.
“We don’t have very specific locations for metadata; everything in Cosnim is internally bonded together through a variation of our patented technology, and in order to reach a file for example, we use these bonds between data elements, which could be considered a loose equivalent of filesystem root, directories, file metadata and data fragments, to reach the data. But there are no central servers, repositories, catalogs or indices to manage this; the bonds themselves hold the entire continuum together, which is how we work serverless.
“So to answer your question, I’m guessing where your mind is, there’s no ‘official’ server or location where this metadata is held or organized, nor do we know in advance where it’s going to be. It can be physically anywhere, in any capsule in any storage system. We figure out the data distribution layout very quickly when we first connect to storage systems, but even then, the metadata remains fully mobile afterwards and can freely change location, as long as the customer’s configuration allows that to happen of course.
“Critical data is also replicated, so we have more than one place to go to during outages. Finally, we don’t reconstruct files on local storage, we implement our own filesystem and we stream the data directly from the continuum (which can have pieces cached on local storage) to the OS or application, on demand. We do this both for reading and writing.
“Unfortunately, there’s no external technical documentation that explains the core technology beyond [the tech primer], most of our outreaches think we already go too deep on the tech side!
“If you’re interested in the underlying technology though, we do have a great demo with a very visual console that shows graphically how this is organized and behaves in real life. We use that to help our audience understand multi-cloud data distribution and resiliency better, so this might answer your questions better. We do have some trade secrets in how we make the core technology work smoothly in real life though.”
Contact Cosnim if you are interested in seeing the demo.
The company has two officers according to its website: CEO, CTO and co-founder Guy Sabourin, and COO and co-founder Leon Parsaud. There are various advisors as well. Sabourin describes himself as the inventor, founder and CEO of Cosnim Cloud Technologies and is a ex-IT consultant and software engineer. He spent several years at Morgan Stanley as an IaaS virtualization software engineer. Parsaud is an ex-private equity person with his Sipher business offering clients strategy and branding help.