The “Nextcloud Box” is a private cloud server and IoT gateway that combines a Raspberry Pi, running Snappy Ubuntu Core, with a WDLabs 1TB HDD.
Nextcloud, Canonical, and WDLabs have collaborated on launching the Nextcloud Box, defined as “a secure, private, self-hosted cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) platform.” The private cloud device provides the open source Nextcloud storage, syncing, and communication software on Snappy Ubuntu Core running on a Raspberry Pi 2. The system also includes a 1TB PiDrive HDD from WDLabs, and a SanDisk microSD loaded with Snappy. Apache, MySQL and Nextcloud 10 are pre-installed on the HDD.
Nextcloud box closed, and open to show the Raspberry Pi 2 and WD PiDrive
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The Nextcloud Box is available for $80 (or 70 Euros), not counting the cost of the Pi 2, with shipments due Oct. 7. A future release will expand support to the Raspberry Pi 3, as well as the Odroid-C2 hacker boards, says Nextcloud.
The Nextcloud Box is the latest in a long tradition of Linux-based private cloud server devices, such as the Sherlybox, the OPI, the Brease, the Lima, and myriad SheevaPlug implementations including the PogoPlug. The idea is that you can keep your data more private and secure by implementing your own private server that you can share with family, friends, or fellow small business members.
Another view of the Nextcloud Box
There are no detailed specs on the Nextcloud Box, which appears to be the size of a typical mini-PC. The simple device combines the 1TB, USB 3.0-connected HDD, as well as the populated microSD slot and a micro-USB port for power. A micro-USB charger, cables, and adapters are also included.
Nextcloud’s Blitzkrieg fork from ownCloud
Nextcloud is a recent fork from ownCloud. OwnCloud co-founder and CTO Frank Karlitschek and most of the key developers defected with the help new backers Struktur AG, the Swedish vendors of a Spreed.ME videoconferencing platform that is now sold through Nextcloud.
The inaugural Nextcloud 10 platform is based on the ownCloud 9 version of ownCloud’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud platform, and is claimed to be more fully open source. Unlike the mostly open source ownCloud, Nextcloud has stripped out some proprietary enterprise applications, and dispensed with Contributor License Agreements and dual-licensing. The company also claims to offer more transparent governance and improved relations with the open source community.
Since the fork, ownCloud has established an ownCloud Foundation to improve open source outreach. However, Nextcloud has moved quickly to ease the migration to Nextcloud for existing ownCloud users, and according to the The Register, ownCloud has closed its U.S. offices and has retreated to its German offices, having lost much of its business.
Nextcloud has added several new open source services that are also available in the Nextcloud Box version. These include the Spreed.ME conferencing software and the LibreOffice-based office suite, Collabora Online. Nextcloud is also integrating the open source, JVM-based OpenHab smart home framework.
Nextcloud has launched sooner than one might expect given that the new company was announced only in June. Now, in addition to providing free downloads for Linux-based computers, it is offering the more embedded Nextcloud Box option.
Nextcloud external storage interface
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The Nextcloud software enables users to sync and share data using a browser-based interface available on mobile phones and desktops. Users can choose to remain entirely isolated or can tap federation capabilities to share data between multiple Nextcloud servers.
There are also a variety of server offerings including calendar and contacts and sysmin functions. Encryption extends to remote as well as local storage, and also covers communications, including Spreed.ME video chats.
The addition of Snappy Ubuntu Core enables the device to act as an extensible IoT gateway for the home, “adding functionality and controlling other devices and connecting them with their owner while keeping the user secure through automatic, unattended updates,” says Nextcloud. Snappy is also said to enable custom applications, although there were few details on this, as well as the promised IoT capabilities. It’s unclear, for example, if the Snappy based IoT functionality is connected with OpenHAB.
The OpenHAB project announced support for Snappy shortly after Canonical’s lightweight, transaction-based version of Ubuntu was first unveiled in early 2015. Yet, the integration has apparently been sidetracked. Nextcloud concluded its Box announcement, however, by suggesting there were more collaborations to come with Canonical and WDLabs, so more on the IoT side may be forthcoming.
Stated Jane Silber, CEO at Canonical: “Together with WDLabs and Nextcloud we are able to bring the first Ubuntu Core-enabled device, as an app-enabled IoT gateway, to the market and to people’s homes.”
The Nextcloud Box is available for $80 (or 70 Euros), not counting the cost of the Pi 2, with shipments due Oct. 7. Despite the arrival of the Raspberry Pi 3, the lowest price we can find for the officially $35 Pi 2 is $40 at Adafruit, so your total will run to $120. More information may be found at the Nextcloud box product page and shopping page.
Additionally, Canonical is hosting a free webinar on “The Making of the Nextcloud Box,” about “building a consumer device in just a few months,” on Oct. 5 at 9AM PDT. Free registration is available here.