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antsle hopes to be the solution
SECURITY SHELF

antsle hopes to be the solution 

As a web developer, Blume is intimately familiar with cloud providers. He has concerns about the implications of placing his code and data in the hands of third party providers, and the cost of paying on a per-instance basis. An obvious solution is to run his own server, however off-the shelf hardware does not meet his needs. Desktop-class hardware usually lacks critical reliability features such as redundant storage and error correcting memory (ECC RAM). Servers consume a lot of electricity and make too much noise for many homes and offices. And both rely on cooling systems that efficiently suck dust into the chassis, resulting in additional reliability challenges.

Blume and his partner Kurt Neumann founded antsle (https://antsle.com) to address the cloud hosting security and privacy problem, as well as reduce their costs. The antsle solution consists of server-grade hardware in a fan-less case with a custom operating system and management software.

 “With antsle, developers can own their own compact and secure data center in their office or home, able to run hundreds of virtual servers,” said Blume. “This means that there is no longer any excuse to expose your data and work to government organizations or to big companies like Amazon, Digital Ocean, Google and others. With antsle, all your data is completely in your hands. All for one low price, no matter how many virtual servers you create. We are empowering developers – giving them power to compete – securely and with the guarantee of full privacy.”

The company is crowdfunding their initial production units on Indiegogo. Their base model antsle one server consists of a quad-core 2.4 GHz Intel CPU with 8 GB 1600 MHz ECC DDR3 RAM, a pair of 120 GB SSDs, Gigabit Ethernet, and USB ports in a silent, fan-less, dustproof aluminum case. The case itself serves as a heat sink. The higher end antsle one pro specs include an octa-core CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and a pair of 500 GB SSDs. Additional options include more RAM, larger SSDs, and adding two internal HDDs (with a nominal noise increase due to the addition of moving parts).

The antsle servers include the antsleOS hypervisor, based on SmartOS, and features Sun’s ultra-reliable ZFS file system. Container virtualization allows developers to efficiently run many (the company claims over 100) VMs on a single antsle server. That makes sense because the container approach eliminates the need for each VM to have its own kernel instance. antsleOS also provides KVM virtualization to support other operating systems such as Windows and FreeBSD. The included antman web-based application enables easy VM creation and management.

The company’s Indiegogo page explains more of their self-hosting motivation: “Today, only 5 companies collect 70 per cent of all online revenue. Worse still, only 50 companies control about 80 per cent of the servers that together make up the Internet. Without antsle, we have no choice but to confide our personal information and code to Google, Amazon, etc. and expose ourselves to a continually centralized Internet. antsle’s mission is to change that! To give back freedom, independence and 100% data ownership to you. To make it easy for everyone to run and control a server, an important piece of the Internet.”

At the time of writing, antsle is 62 per cent of their way to a modest Indiegogo goal of US $15,000, with 33 days remaining in their campaign. Sixteen backers have contributed, and ten servers have been spoken for.

Blume’s timing is excellent. Many businesses and consumers already connect to the Internet at unprecedented speeds. Global surveillance revelations have resulted in widespread concerns about data sovereignty and privacy, and the vast majority of cloud hosting worldwide is controlled by American corporations subject to intrusive US laws. A quiet, reliable, and affordable server is exactly what many individuals and small businesses need to reduce costs and take physical control of their systems and information. antsle hopes to be the solution.

Have a security question you’d like answered in a future column? Email eric.jacksch@iticonline.ca

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