NetApp-Sun lawsuit seen as open-source test case

Puts open sourcing of ZFS code under microscope, analysts say

A patent-infringement lawsuit filed by Network Appliance against Sun Microsystems on Wednesday could escalate beyond the storage arena to become this decade's major test case for ope- source software, according to storage analysts.

NetApp contends that Sun's ZFS file-system technology, which was donated to the OpenSolaris.org open-source community earlier this year, infringes on seven NetApp patents.

Andrew Reichman, an analyst at Forrester Research, said that NetApp's effort to stop Sun from developing or distributing the file-system technology could catapult the sticky issue of open-source software ownership squarely onto the public stage.

"This will be a banner case to test the viability of open-source storage software, which Sun has been touting for some time," said Reichman. "[Sun is] too committed to the idea of providing storage technology to users without charge via the open-source community -- a process that "the likes of NetApp and EMC are very hostile to." The other companies, he noted, fear that open-source storage technology would cut them off from significant sources of revenue.

"I think [the legal scuffle] will drag on for a long time and likely become the major test case for open-source software this decade," he said.

Reichman also noted that NetApp may have difficulty convincing a judge to force Sun to pay for using the patents, given what he called Sun's convoluted revenue stream from a system that provides users with some intellectual property without charge.

"Mike Karp, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates said that issues being raised by NetApp over ZFS in many ways mirrors the legal battle between Novell and The SCO Group over Unix ownership."

"This is not the sort of thing that is likely to be resolved overnight. My guess is that this is going to be a very expensive suit for both sides to prosecute," said Karp. "Neither side can afford to lose this thing."

Given when he calls a fragmented approach by Sun toward its StorageTek technology and reseller relationships, Reichman said he perceives ZFS as the company's "make or break" storage technology. Whether by design or not, NetApp's lawsuit will likely distract Sun's fledgling storage effort, he added.

"[Sun] already has significant challenges in productizing ZFS-based storage offerings and emerging as a force in storage, and [the lawsuit] will only compound that," Reichman remarked.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brian Fonseca

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?