A $149 “Sherlybox” NAS debuted on Kickstarter today, based on a Raspberry Pi core, and offering a secure VPN that creates an invite-only cloud service.
After Polish startup called “Sher.ly” developed a VPN and file-sharing software product of the same name, the developers felt it needed a little kick with the help of a Kickstarter-funded hardware device called “Sherlybox.” The device is somewhat similar to another Linux-based Kickstarter project called Lima, which has yet to enter commercial pre-sales more than 10 months after being funded. While the Lima was built from scratch, the current Sherlybox prototype is based on a Raspberry Pi Model B single-board computer.
Sherlybox will be offered in four colors
The Sherlybox is a network-attached storage (NAS) device, available with ($199) or without ($149) onboard storage. It generates a private, invite-only cloud network that lets invited visitors share public data or add their own, and also download or sync files.
File access is based on a peer-to-peer VPN, rather than being managed by a cloud service, so security is controlled by you, not a third party, says the project. Additionally, unlike cloud storage services like DropBox, Box, and others, there are no storage or file size limitations, and in contrast to device-based shared storage solutions like the Cloud Engines PogoPlug (pictured on the right, click to enlarge), there is no intermediary cloud service.
Sherlybox uses peer-to-peer VPN instead of a cloud service
Theoretically, the Sherlybox can be expanded with up to 127 USB hard disk drives (HDDs) drives, says the company. The “Sher.ly” app that enables secure, encrypted file sharing is based on Sher.ly’s earlier peer-to-peer GatelessVPN technology. Sher.ly, which is also available separately for desktop PCs, is described as a “C++ native folder-based special VPN” that offers self-examination functionality.
The file-sharing protocol is 20 times faster than typical CIFS/SMB based protocols, and can utilize up to 94 percent of the network bandwidth, claims the project. In addition to providing standard encryption, there will be an option for REST data encryption. The software lets you use desktop or mobile apps to control sharing groups and access data.
Setup involves pressing the device’s logo button three times (no need to click your heels). This is said to wirelessly connect you to your router to launch your service as well as connect you to local PCs running Sher.ly. The Sherlybox does not require an active PC connection, however, to share files.
The Sherlybox also provides streaming sync capability with both Plex.tv and XBMC. “With Plex mobile and smart TV apps you can stream any content you want: on your phone, tablet or big screen TV — directly from your Sherlybox,” says Sher.ly. XBMC streaming is available via the pre-installed Raspbmc Linux distribution. Openelec and Raspbian Linux will also be supported. The underlying Raspberry Pi computing core is also available to run other Pi compatible apps.
Under the hood
The novel-looking, rounded device measures 5.9 x 4.6 x 4.6 inches and weighs 2.2-pounds. It houses an extended version of the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, featuring the same 700MHz, ARM11-based Broadcom BCM2835 CPU and 512MB of RAM as the Raspberry Pi SBC Model B. The Compute Module also integrates a 4GB eMMC flash drive.
Sherlybox prototype internals
(click images to enlarge)
The Sherlybox is further equipped with WiFi (802.11b/g/n), a 10/100 Ethernet port, an HDMI port, and an analog audio jack. You also get an independently powered USB 2.0 hub, and a 2.5-inch HDD bay, which can be populated with the optional 1TB drive. Power consumption is said to be “up to 3A” without USB devices connected.
Sherlybox prototype exploded view
(click image to enlarge)
Although the current Sherlybox prototype uses a Raspberry Pi SBC (as shown above), the team plans to migrate the device’s design to the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module as soon as the COM version of the Pi becomes available later this year. The updated design will include a custom carrier board with a socket for the COM, and will have all required I/O connectors grouped along one edge, Sher.ly cofounder Blazej Marciniak told us in an email. The expected COM+baseboard update will reduce system costs, and also will enable “stretch goals” including gigabit Ethernet and 11ac WiFi.
Beyond the use of open-source operating system software and other related components, Sher.ly makes no open source claims regarding the Sherlybox’s overall internal stack including its C++ native folder-based special VPN software. However, the team says it plans to publish APIs to enable third-party app development.
The Sherlybox has a Kickstarter funding goal of $69,000, with a deadline of July 4. A $29 pledge gives you a lifetime license for the underlying Sher.ly app, which can run on Linux, Mac, or Windows desktops and lets you offer similar file-sharing as the standalone Sherlybox. The Sherlybox starts at $149, with the lifetime Sher.ly app license included, and ships in Jan. 2015. A $199 pledge adds a built-in 1TB HDD, but pushes the ship date to March. Other packages including color options, are also available.