Why cloud storage startup Box is considering OpenStack over Amazon S3

Right now, the backend for cloud storage startup Box is “kind of boring,” said engineering VP Sam Schillace at GigaOM’s Structure 2013 conference. But it looks like some interesting changes could be afoot.

On stage with GigaOM senior writer Derrick Harris, Schillace said the company’s backend is pretty straightforward, relying on PHP, MySQL and filers, as well as Amazon (s amzn) Web Services for some backup. But he added that they’re mulling a few next-generation approaches, including a shift to OpenStack Swift.

“We’re looking really hard at OpenStack and Swift, and there are some things we want to add,” he said. “We did a bunch of modeling and it looks like Swift, if we added erasure codes to it, would be very cost-competitive and really solve our problems for a long time.”

When asked by Harris if that meant Box would use OpenStack instead of AWS, Schillace indicated that would be the case, but later explained that the company would use Swift, its own data centers and then move to Amazon’s Glacier (as opposed to Amazon’s pricier S3) for backup.

The big issue with Swift, he said, is growth, especially considering that Box doubles in size a couple of times a year.

“The challenge is mostly that we would be the biggest thing we’ve ever heard of on Swift and we’re not totally convinced we want to go first,” Schillace said.

Still, he added that the company is evaluating the option by building out proofs of concept, putting load on it and testing out what it feels like to operationalize.

Looking ahead, he said, the company will continue to invest in and deepen its platform in hopes that developers will build on top of it and ultimately contribute to a “vibrant app store.” Earlier this month, the company launched a new program called $rev that incentives developers to build apps for paying customers.

Another big focus will be on content creation as opposed to just content storage.

“[Not just] better organization but better creation tools,” he said. “So it becomes the place that you go to work and deal with business content.”

Check out the rest of our Structure 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page