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The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is an Internet standard for transferring files. The standard has been around for a long time and has had few useful updates during the last few decades. While it provides a common ground for transferring files between disparate systems, it is quite primitive and relatively featureless.

FTP was designed to have its commands typed in by a person using a console style program and was not designed for sophisticated GUIs or automated processes as it lacks many of the features that these applications require.

CapstoneBlack has developed an enhanced FTP with the assistance of ACT government funding and will be publishing the protocol shortly. CapstoneBlack is developing a server implementation of the protocol for use by its storage servers and its Cobar product.

What is wrong with FTP?

CapstoneBlack has developed a range of storage solutions that currently utilise FTP. FTP is lacking a number of features that prevent the online storage being utilised in a similar fashion to local storage. The impact of these shortcomings is that any program using FTP is quite slow when dealing with large number of files, particularly when comparisons are made to local files such as in an online backup or storage solution.

An application using FTP requires many FTP commands to perform quite simple tasks and must wait for a response from the server between each command (aka 'turnaround'). Each turnaround may take tenths of a second or longer thus an application that requires hundreds or thousands of commands to be entered will take a long time to complete.

Approach to the problem

CapstoneBlack has designed a protocol that reduces the number of turnarounds by using the following design principles:

  • Use of 'macro' commands that combine the FTP primitive functions into a high level command useful for file storage and manipulation.
  • Support directory recursion and wildcard functions.

The enhanced commands are added to FTP to produce a modern version of the protocol more suited to automated software processes. Using these commands allows the time taken for a comparison of an online directory tree to a local tree to be reduced to a few seconds where many minutes would be required using just FTP.

Further activities

CapstoneBlack is developing a reference implementation of the protocol as additional modules for an existing FTP server. Once completed, the Cobar product suite will be enhanced to include the features offered by the protocol and the enhanced FTP will be trialed and eventually rolled out onto the company's existing storage servers.

Following successful implementation of the protocol, CapstoneBlack intends to publicly publish the standard to facilitate further development and wider uptake of the enhancements.  This is expected to occur in 2007.

Further work will concentrate on management interfaces to allow storage servers to be better integrated into the service provider infrastructure enabling better and cheaper storage to be provided to their customers.

Further information

For further information about CapstoneBlack R&D efforts please feel free to contact us.


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