I’ve written about personal clouds and personal data stores (PDS – also called personal data vaults or lockers) for several years now, but in a conversation with Craig Burton last week the distinction between the two snapped into sharp focus. See this illustration:
In short, if a personal cloud is a virtual personal computer in the cloud, then a PDS is its virtual file system. Note that this does NOT mean the PDS stores all its data in the cloud. In fact, one of the most salient features of a full-featured PDS is that it will provide controlled access and sharing of data stored in native data stores anywhere on the wired or wireless Web. These native data stores become a virtual part of the personal cloud by virtue of a secure semantic data sharing protocol like XDI.
So, while every personal cloud has a PDS, what makes it a personal cloud is “the rest of the story” — the virtual machine running on top of that PDS. This virtual machine, running a personal cloud OS, lets the user run his/her choice of apps that can access and share data via its PDS just like apps on your PC can access and share data via its file system.
Phil Windley just did a blog post detailing how the layers and components of a cloud OS work. And the premise of the Respect Network is that these apps — apps like the Connect.Me social business card that operate across a network of personal clouds — are what will drive large scale adoption of personal clouds (and the PDS underlying each one).