ZFS Puts Net App Viability at Risk?

About a month ago, Network Appliance sued Sun to try to stop the competitive impact of ZFS on their business.

I can understand why they’re upset – when Linux first came on the scene in Sun’s core market, there were some here who responded the same way, asking “who can we sue?” But seeing the future, we didn’t file an injunction to stop competition – instead, we joined the free software community and innovated.

One of the ways we innovated was to create a magical file system called ZFS – which enables expensive, proprietary storage to be replaced with commodity disks and general purpose servers. Customers save a ton of money – and administrators save a ton of time. The economic impact is staggering – and understandably threatening to Net App and other proprietary companies. As is all free innovation, at some level.

So last week, I reached out to their CEO to see how we could avoid litigation. I have no interest whatever in suing them. None whatever.

Their objectives were clear – number one, they’d like us to unfree ZFS, to retract it from the free software community. Which reflects a common misconception among proprietary companies – that you can unfree, free. You cannot.

Second, they want us to limit ZFS’s allowable field of use to computers – and to forbid its use in storage devices. Which is quizzical to say the least – in our view, computers are storage devices, and vice versa (in the picture on the right – where’s the storage? Answer: everywhere). So that, too, is an impractical solution.

We’re left with the following: we’re unwilling to retract innovation from the free software community, and we can’t tolerate an encumbrance that limits ZFS’s value – to our customers, the community at large, or Sun’s shareholders.

So now it looks like we can’t avoid responding to their litigation, as frustrated as I am by that (as I said, we have zero interest in suing them). I wanted to outline our response (even if it tips off the folks at Net App), and for everyone to know where we’re headed.

First, the basics. Sun indemnifies all its customers against IP claims like this. That is, we’ve always protected our markets from trolls, so customers can continue to use ZFS without concern for spurious patent and copyright issues. We stand behind our innovation, and our customers.

Second, Sun protects the communities using our technologies under free software licenses. As an example, Apple is including ZFS is in their upcoming “Leopard” OS X release. This is happening without any payment to Sun (that’s how truly free software works). Under the license, we’ve waived all rights to sue them for any of the patents or copyright associated with ZFS. We’ve let Apple know we will use our patent portfolio to protect them and the Mac ZFS community from Net App. With or without a commercial relationship to Sun.

That’s true for any licensee – in fact, Net App could adopt ZFS today and receive the same protection. The port is done to FreeBSD, the OS on which Net App’s filers are built. They could use it without owing us a dime, and they’d be protected from our portfolio. (The quid pro quo? They’d have to agree to offer reciprocal protection to Sun.)

Third, we file patents defensively. Like MySQL or Red Hat, companies similarly competing in the free software marketplace, we file patents to protect the communities from which innovation and opportunity spring. Unlike smaller free software companies, we have one of the largest patent arsenals on the internet, numbering more than 14,000 issued and pending globally. Our portfolio touches nearly every aspect of network computing, from multi-core silicon and opto-electronics, to search and of course, a huge array of patents across storage systems and software – to which Network Appliance has decided to expose themselves.

And to be clear, once again, we have no interest whatever in suing NetApps – we didn’t before this case, and we don’t now. But given the impracticality of what they’re seeking as resolution, to take back an innovation that helps their customers as much as ours, we have no choice but to respond in court.

So later this week, we’re going to use our defensive portfolio to respond to Network Appliance, filing a comprehensive reciprocal suit. As a part of this suit, we are requesting a permanent injunction to remove all of their filer products from the marketplace, and are examining the original NFS license – on which Network Appliance was started. By opting to litigate vs. innovate, they are disrupting their customers and employees across the world.

In addition to seeking the removal of their products from the marketplace, we will be going after sizable monetary damages. And I am committing that Sun will donate half of those proceeds to the leading institutions promoting free software and patent reform (in specific, The Software Freedom Law Center and the Peer to Patent initiative), and to the legal defense of free software innovators. We will continue to fund the aggressive reexamination of spurious patents used against the community (which we’ve been doing behind the scenes on behalf of several open source innovators). Whatever’s left over will fuel a venture fund fostering innovation in the free software community.

And on that note, I want to thank the free software advocates from across the world who’ve offered expert testimony, and reams of prior art to defend ZFS, and the community of which Sun’s a part. Please rest assured we will use this opportunity to highlight the futility of using software patents to forestall competition – in the commercial marketplace, and among the free community.

In the interim, if you’re a Net App customer looking for alternatives, we would be pleased to talk to you about lowering the cost of proprietary storage – if you’re a technical sort, start by trying out ZFS in software form. (There are also lots of reviews available, this one just posted). We’d also be happy to send you a free trial Storage System based on ZFS (pick the x4500 here). And remember, we indemnify our customers.

The shift to commodity infrastructure is as inevitable as the rising tide – although for some, I’m sure it feels like a rogue wave.


Filed under General

132 responses to “ZFS Puts Net App Viability at Risk?

  1. Peter Frandsen

    Thanks for standing up for the free and Open Source community!

  2. Robert Hardison

    That’s right Jonathon, bitch slap them punks and put ’em in their place. Free Market rules. Adapt or Die!
    Game over NetApp Game over.

  3. An interesting blogpost with a good attitude. But why do you not mention witch license ZFS runs under? I remember Linus on LKLM saying that before the "OSS-Talk" walk the walk and do the thing! GPLv2.
    Thank you for your clearing statement.
    It maybe that I missed something but, the license is to important to just forget it outside in the car.
    PS: Also on the ZFS-Page I did not find a word about the license.

  4. An informative post as always… Thanks for supporting the Open Source community

  5. John

    So, when will Sun ship its first Storage products based on zfs rather than 3rd party raid controllers?
    Imagine, a Niagra 2 based system with FC connectors to the jbod and a few FC connectors to the SAN. ZFS on the "controller" that presents zfs volumes as luns. (its not always practical to present 50 disks to one host to reassemble as a zpool. especially if you want to share those physical disks over several hosts)
    iSCSI is already available, so now you just need a similar Fiber Channel based layer.

  6. DJV

    Very informative post Jonathan. I appreciate your insight into these sort of isssues.

  7. A very thoughtful response. It is a shame that companies try and take the easy way out and file litigation rather than innovate. With the outcome of the SCO case, we have seen what happens and the results aren’t pretty. Litigation hurts both sides of the case and more importantly customers in the long run.
    Mr. Schwartz, you have really turned Sun not only into a good open source company, but a trustworthy and ethical business partner. Thank you!

  8. TimC

    Zeno: ZFS is licensed under the CDDL, the same thing OpenSolaris is licensed under. It is Sun’s own license.
    Linus likes to talk a lot, but at the end of the day, the GPL is MORE restrictive than a BSD or CDDL license.

  9. Zoltan Farkas

    "change is the only constant in business"
    Open Source Software has and will create a lot in inflection points for a lot of companies. How they will react to it will make or break them.
    A few years ago Sun had to react to the Linux/x86 inflection point and I believe they did the right thing. Now it’s Net App’s turn, too bad they chose the SCO way, we all know where that leads …
    I recomend the book:
    Only The Paranoid Survive by Andy Groove.

  10. James

    Hi Jonathan, any news on making the ZFS license compatible with Linux or is that too big a risk for Sun?

  11. Would dual-licensing ZFS under GPL be worth it for Sun, since it would tend to bring Linux prior art researchers onto the Sun team?

  12. You know what I’d like to see Jonathan? a small NAS appliance for the HOME MARKET from Sun, running ZFS.
    Why is Sun afraid of the home market?

  13. Joe

    I hope we can get Pamela Jones and Groklaw involved to follow this lawsuit.

  14. I know what you’re thinking-did he fire six shots across the bow or only five?

  15. George has a good point.
    I trialled zfs at my previous job. In some ways it is years ahead of the competitors but in the end it lost out because it failed a couple really mundane tests. Firstly, I deliberately pulled a drive while it was idle to simulate a drive failure and I was unable to easily recover data and secondly the supporting tools didn’t support it at the time. That said, if it wasn’t for the showstoppers it was ahead on every other count, so I would say propriatary solutions like NetApp have maybe a year or two before zfs beats them on every point.
    George’s point touches on one of the two showstoppers I hit. Unless Sun makes it practical to use ZFS everywhere, adoption will be slower and so the supporting tools and infrastructure will come slower.
    Oh, and I strongly support Sun’s move here, zfs is the best thing I’ve seen in years and I am very glad it will be freely available for all sorts of interesting uses.
    PS: The other feature I’d like to see is support for zpool over nbd so that I can efficiently run two servers in different locations that share the same data. It’s a bit hard to count this against sun since the competitors don’t have this feature either.

  16. Good post Jonathan. It’s wild to see this legalistic discourse in blogs. Gives me hope about the future. Interestingly enough, I wonder why you mention them as "Net App," "Network Appliance," and "Net Apps"…? It sounds similar to how Republicans always mention the "DemoCRAT Party." :0
    What Net App is doing sounds similar to the RIAA: DRM is anti- end user, yet their lawyers are fighting hard to keep their IP locked down. The consumer will ultimately win, but it’s gonna take years and a lot of lawyers are gonna be much richer. It’s too bad we have to use valuable resources in litigation, but the Open Source community will benefit in the end.

  17. Ruben

    Thank you Jonathan!!!!!!

  18. Tobu

    Checking netapp’s side of the story[1], they come out just as decent as you are, using patents only because lawyers on the other side were (talking about) harrassing them.
    Given that everyone is kind and nice, no one especially likes patents and lawyers, can’t you both agree to donate the patents to OIN and quit suing?
    [1] http://blogs.netapp.com/dave/2007/09/netapp-sues-sun.html

  19. Tobu

    (by patents I meant software patents, and lawyers I meant patent lawyers. Sorry if anyone else was hurt by the above.)

  20. James Holman

    Let me get this straight….
    Net App, whose entire business is built on an open source operating system, FreeBSD, is going to sue Sun for releasing software as open source?
    That bird aint gonna fly.

  21. Bill Todd

    Methinks you’d have a somewhat stronger leg to stand on if the legal posturing hadn’t begun with *your* demanding $36 million from NetApp due to alleged infringement of *your* patents. While their response was also heavy-handed, it’s difficult under those circumstances to call it unjustified.
    I have no idea whether either of you infringes upon the other’s patents, but I do understand ZFS’s internals well enough to know that while it does qualify as innovative (even while borrowing quite heavily conceptually from NetApp’s WAFL) it does not qualify as ‘magical’. WAFL supports equal integrity guarantees in the server environment and often superior performance (in part by leveraging NVRAM and in part by offering a better parity-RAID implementation than RAID-Z for environments that experience many parallel, small accesses), and while common (e.g., Linux and Windows) file systems do not equal ZFS or WAFL in ultimate integrity guarantees (though arguably come close enough when combined with background disk scrubbing when one examines actual error probabilities) several equal or surpass ZFS in performance.
    Still, ZFS has great potential to evolve into the calibre of product that you describe and I wish it well: it’s a breath of fresh air in a product area that sees relatively little innovation from major corporations. And I hope that you and NetApp come to an amicable solution rather than continue your mutual public posturing: recent court rulings suggest that neither of you will be able to gain advantage via that route, and the attempts aren’t doing your public images any good.

  22. The Happy Engineer

    Jonathan’s attitude and his blog are perfect examples of why Sun is a great place to work, and I’m proud to have him as my CEO.
    As for Net App, since when has competition based on litigation rather than products and features been a good business strategy to attract customers? If Net App are against free software, perhaps they should replace all of the free technology they rely on with technology they have paid for. (I think it would be a while before they had a product again)

  23. kam

    it looks like netapp has a different view on this…

  24. Ritesh

    Which company are you referring to ?
    * NetApp
    * NetApps
    * Net App
    * Network Appliance

  25. I

    I often didn’t agree with some statements posted in your blog before – but this time I support your position 100% and wish Sun full victory in this lawsuit. ZFS is great, truly innovative and open source – how someone can be against it?
    And NetApp which built it’s sw on top of FreeBSD and then charges an arm and a leg for their products should be ashamed – I mean their managers and legal dept; I don’t know if NetApp engineers had any say in what happened so I don’t blame them.

  26. Niall

    Reading the NetApp blog[1] that kam points out above puts a whole different light on this. According to that blog this started out with Sun demanding $millions from NetApp and its them thats using their patent portfolio as a defensive strategy. IMO you should respond to that blog entry Jonathan – ignoring it gives it credibility
    [1] http://blogs.netapp.com/dave/2007/09/netapp-sues-sun.html

  27. Lundy

    We run NetApps quite exclusively, and Solaris 10. But always been a bit unhappy about the price since a 500GB HDD is $100 in the shops, and $1000 from NetApp.
    If ZFS would give us the raid, and .snapshot features, it would be very interesting indeed. Shame the Try-Free thing is US only, and not Japan 🙂

  28. Bill Todd:
    What reference do you have about Sun demanding $36 million from NetApp as the start of this IP battle? Are you sure this was not an interaction that started prior to Sun’s acquisition of StorageTek? Jonathan said the following in a previous post in September
    "First, Sun did not approach NetApps about licensing any of Sun’s patents and never filed complaints against NetApps or demanded anything.
    NetApps first approached StorageTek behind the cover of a third party intermediary (yes, it sounds weird, doesn’t it?) seeking to purchase STK patents. After Sun acquired STK, we were not willing to sell the patents, We’ve always been willing to license them. But instead of engaging in licensing discussions, NetApp decided to file a suit to invalidate them. To be clear, we never filed a complaint or threatened to do so, nor did anyone, to the best of my knowledge, in the ZFS community."
    You seem to imply that Sun made the first move and asked for patent licensing fees. If this e-mail exchange at http://www.netapp.com/go/Sun%20Lawyer%20Email.pdf is true it’s not clear to me who fired the first shot across the bow. Of course once the war started it’s not uncommon to see this type of pissing match where various weapons will be used to bring things to a head.
    I’m not saying either side has the higher legal moral ground this early in the game but Jonathan has clearly made a statement and detailed a timeline of events that is in direct opposition to your claim. The fact that NetApp filed the claim in Texas instead of the California backyard of both companies to me already says something about the NetApp claim.
    In any case this will be an interesting case to see vetted out in court for all to see. It’s unfortunate however this couldn’t be worked out – wasting both companies energy in court doesn’t help the industry as a whole.

  29. Jon Bradshaw

    The most helpful thing you could do for the open source community would be to get RMS to wear a nice ponytail, like yours.

  30. Kauer

    It’s just big boys slapping each other. I don’t see how this is an interesting or in any way special case. Company A uses patents against company B. Company B rummages through its own patent portfolio and counterattacks. Happens every day in business. In the end someone wins or they settle and both companies claim victory. Business as usual and it doesn’t have to do anything with free software.
    Jonathan’s blog entry stinks for another reason, too. He is rewriting history.
    > when Linux first came on the scene in Sun’s core market,
    > there were some here who responded the same way, asking
    > "who can we sue?"
    > But seeing the future, we didn’t file an injunction to
    > stop competition
    No, Sun decided to give SCO money to do the dirty work for them. And Sun deliberately chose an own free-software license, deliberately engineered to be incompatible with the GPL, the predominant license for Linux software. While, at the same time, Sun was complaining about free-software license proliferation.
    From my point of view Sun is just a business and trying to utilize the free software community in its fight with NetApp is dishonest. The NetApp dispute is a normal business dispute over intellectual property rights. Not more.

  31. Jimbo

    Well done Jonathan! Go ahead and squash them with your patents, please.

  32. Seems like NetApp is in dire need of some media attention. Their makes completely no sense what so ever. And a court case will be lost by NetApp, costing them a lot of money and for what? And ZFS is at this stage only a direct threat to NetApp’s ancient NAS solutions. I can’t think of anyone wanting to by a sole NAS solution with NetApp costs these days anymore.
    So NetApp when you want to threaten the OSS community (which is biting the hand that feeds you) at least think of something that is a threat instead of a DonQuichot action like this.
    One big L for NetApp L O S E R S!

  33. Why isn’t Sun a member in the Open Invention Network (OIN) together with IBM, Sony, Nec, Novell, Red Hat and Philips?
    Their goal is the same – to protect the customers from patent trolls.

  34. You looked really angry at your CEC keynote in regard to the Network Appliance lawsuit. I think your blog entry and the preannouncement of the reciprocal lawsuit should be a call to NTAP to get back to a competion based on technology and not on lawsuits.

  35. Reading the nettapps blog, dave states the following as their basis.
    Here’s how the ZFS designers describe filesystem consistency:
    The best way to avoid file system corruption due to system panic or power loss is to keep the data on the disk self-consistent at all times, as WAFL does. To do so, the file system needs a simple way to transition from one consistent on-disk state to another without any window of time when the system could crash and leave the on-disk data in an inconsistent state.
    —end quote—
    However, reading further in the same paper,
    WAFL, which stands for Write
    Anywhere File Layout, was the first commercial
    file system to use the copy-on-write tree of blocks
    approach to file system consistency. Both WAFL
    and Episode[4] store metadata in files. WAFL also
    logs operations at the file system level rather than
    the block level. ZFS differs from WAFL in its use of
    pooled storage and the storage pool allocator, which
    allows file systems to share storage without knowing
    anything about the underlying layout of storage.
    WAFL uses a checksum file to hold checksums for
    all blocks, whereas ZFS’s checksums are in the
    indirect blocks, making checksums self-validating
    and eliminating an extra block read.
    which shows real major differences not only in the design principle, but also in the implementation and functionality.
    And besides, anyone that has used WAFL knows how badly fragmented it gets, a problem not seen in ZFS.
    I really don’t think netapp have a leg to stand on, far too much of what they say is self contradictory.

  36. Anonymous

    Of course, if software patents did not exist this would all be moot. All well and good when Sun plays ball, but whate happens when you leave Sun and a less enlightned CEO takes the reigns …

  37. Dear Jonathan,
    I have corrected the title of your article by:
    Software patents puts ZFS viability at risk?
    And I don’t think the Peer-to-Patent project does resolve the "legal defense of free software innovators".

  38. Maarten

    "…to the leading institutions promoting free software and patent reform (in specific, The Software Freedom Law Center and the Peer to Patent initiative)" — huh? The leading institutions are the FFII and the Eurolinux Alliance. Radicals like Eben Moglen and the peer2patent wimps haven’t achieved anything so far.

  39. Syamsul Anuar

    Like your post… but will like you and Sun better if you GPL your software!! enuff said

  40. ig

    Jonathan says "instead, we joined the free software community and innovated" and then mentions ZFS in the very next sentence.
    It seems to me that if Jonathan is serious about Sun’s commitment to free software, he would make sure ZFS was available under the terms of the GPLv2 so that it could be integrated into the leading free operating system (Linux).
    Seriously, Jonathan, there are places for Solaris and there are places for Linux. I run both in my data center (not to mention a few NetApp filers) and will continue to use the right tool for each job for the foreseeable future. What are you afraid of?

  41. Kudos to Jonathan and Sun in general for developing and releasing this technology as open source. I can’t make any claims about the various lawsuits, but foundational technologies like ZFS are best when they are 1) easily adopted, and 2) widely deployed. You can read my entire article on the debate at:
    I remember a similar debate about NFS when it was released under what I thought were fairly expensive licensing terms; it’s a pleasure to see that Sun is now voting for rapid and widespread deployment.
    At the end of the day, the ZFS style of managing storage will eventually win, simply because it makes managing the storage which is growing at 50% to 100% a year possible. Drive-based and LUN-based systems just aren’t going to be able to keep up.

  42. Prince

    Yes, Sun is primarily a business and needs to show profits and revenue growth. At the same time while doing business , Sun greatly contributes to open source community. What is the issue with folks of this approach if this further enhances Sun’s business opportunities ?

  43. Francisco

    Why did you sue netapp in the first place?
    "About 18 months ago, Sun’s lawyers contacted NetApp with a list of patents they say we infringe, and requested that we pay them lots of money. We responded in two ways. First, we closely examined their list of patents. Second, we identified the patents in our portfolio that we believe Sun infringes.
    […] "It looks like ZFS was a conscious reimplementation of our WAFL filesystem" […]

  44. Jason Herring

    I have used both Sun and Netapp boxes (as well as Linux) for years, so I’d like to think I’m an unbiased voice here. A few inaccuracies in the post stand out. The first is that NetApp’s operating system, Data OnTap, was not developed from Linux, UNIX or BSD of any form, it was written from the ground up. It is somewhat UNIX like, true, but in concept, not in coding. It is a lean kernel written just to move data from point A to point B – not much provision for user-space applications.
    It took Sun quite awhile to embrace Linux at any level – Linux was treated with nearly as much hostility as Windows at one time by Sun. Certainly there’s some history re-writing going on. As mentioned by previous posters, a GPL’d ZFS and OpenSolaris would go a long way to embrace open source thought (and, had Solaris been opened years earlier I could bet that Linux would not be the force that it is today).
    And, to address the title, ZFS has a *LONG* way to go before it puts NetApp viability at risk. The entire concept of an "appliance" is what wins the day, not just the dynamics of a file system. Reduced complexity with dedicated devices – separating application "computers" from "storage" from "network routing" are logical partitions which, by not putting all eggs in one basket, provide a resilient datacenter that can sustain mechanical failure, software bugs or just plain human error. Does anyone want to have their network routing running on the same box that runs email, serves files and contains terabytes of storage? It used to be that way (well, maybe not terabytes of storage!), and then a company called Cisco decided that an appliance to do just that function would be a good idea.
    Another reason ZFS is not poised to displace NetApp is the OS that’s wrapped around it. When Solaris has built-in seamless clustering and failover between two units, can be provisioned (NFS, CIFS, LUNs and iSCSI) from a simple web browser and has hooks into many popular applications to manage the storage without the user ever seeing the Solaris command-line or a foreign interface then I’ll believe it.
    I have used Solaris since 2.3, and NetApp since the late 90’s. You guys need to play as nice together in the courtroom as you do in the datacenter.

  45. Bill Todd

    Wayne –
    My reference is the one that you yourself provide: last December’s email from Sun (not from StorageTek) requesting that NetApp pay Sun $36.5 million.
    This email states that earlier correspondence relating to alleged patent infringement had been exchanged at least as far back as the point when StorageTek asserted that NetApp was infringing StorageTek patents around June, 2005 (when Sun announced its intention to acquire StorageTek, hence presumably was at least aware of this matter) – but this is the first evidence I’ve seen of an actual attempt to obtain compensation from the alleged infringement (apparently a reiteration of an earlier request for the same amount – again, a request from Sun, not from StorageTek).
    Made in the context of the patents which StorageTek alleged NetApp was infringing upon, and accompanied by explicit dismissal of the idea that NetApp held patents of its own which would allow a friendly cross-licensing agreement to be made without money changing hands, it seems entirely reasonable for NetApp to have interpreted this as a demand for money from a corporation with the muscle to back up such a demand in court.
    So while a certain amount of mutual sabre-rattling may have gone on prior to this point, unless someone can offer additional evidence to the contrary this appears to have been the first actual shot fired (albeit one fired across the bow rather than directly into the bilge), and it was fired by Sun. Firing the first shot is a risky business: while it may bring your adversary to the bargaining table, it may equally well make him decide to sink you rather than wait around to see where your next shot may land, and that’s what seems to have happened here.
    While neither party seems blameless, the rather blatant and to all appearances unsupportable spin (that’s actually being charitable beyond the point of euphemism) evident in Jonathan’s blog entry above rubbed me enough the wrong way that I decided to comment. To his credit, however, he does seem willing to post less than adoring comments here as well as those from the faithful – a trait he shares with Dave Hitz over at NetApp, so perhaps with a bit of effort they can find additional common ground going forward in this matter.

  46. Max

    Are you actually going to put your court filing documents online like NetApp did?

  47. as I said before: proud to work for this company 🙂

  48. Bill Todd

    George –
    Dave Hitz’s blog correctly describes how COW ensures on-disk structural consistency in both WAFL and ZFS (not that somewhat similar mechanisms such as IMS’s ‘shadow paging’ haven’t been in use since the ’60s). However, the continuation of the ZFS paper which you cite does not really refute the idea that ZFS owes a great deal to WAFL:
    1. ZFS’s use of ‘pooled storage’ is more an extension of WAFL’s than a significant underlying difference: both leverage a ‘write anywhere’ policy, but ZFS offers more flexibility in using disks of varying sizes and in redundancy options.
    2. The description of WAFL’s checksum support is inaccurate. Originally WAFL depended upon in-block checksums, requiring 520-byte disk sectors to be formated. More recently, they have offered the option to use standard 512-byte sectors, presumably to accommodate use of (S)ATA drives when desired, with two different checksum approaches: ‘block’ (which adds a checksum sector for every 8 disk sectors, trading disk space for performance) and ‘zone’ (which adds a checksum block for every 63 file system blocks, reversing that trade-off). None of these approaches uses a ‘checksum file’, and the latter two offer checksum integrity comparable to ZFS’s (ZFS’s slightly better performance for small files being offset by the penalty that resident checksums cause to indirect-block fanout for larger files).
    As for your own closing comment, WAFL and ZFS work quite similarly in terms of fragmentation, the main difference being that ZFS offers the option to work with considerably larger block sizes.
    It’s too bad that people don’t seem to be able to keep their own emotions and loyalties out of what is essentially a debate over technical and legal points. Perhaps that’s related to the reasons why marketing so often trumps technical excellence these days. Both the ZFS and the WAFL developers have a lot to be proud of, and this kind of spin-zoo diminishes their achievements.

  49. Nick

    I smell a rat. Both companies are claiming to be victims, and we all know that’s not the case. And the letter from Sun lawyer Timothy Schulte makes it fairly clear that Sun initiated this, not NetApp. I would like to see Jonathan respond to this directly rather than just pretending it’s not true.

  50. Every time ZFS or Solaris or anything not licensed under GPL is mentioned there are always comments like the one above that says "Like your post… but will like you and Sun better if you GPL your software!"
    There’s really nothing wrong with CDDL or MPL or EPL or other similar licenses except that for most practical purposes *GPL is not compatible with them*. Ever think maybe the sticking point lies with GPL and not all these other licenses? Why should everything have to bend to meet the GPL, instead of the other way around?

  51. Dear Jonathan Schwartz,
    Good. Very Good.
    I remember that Bill Clinton said this, after his first 365 days in office ( or after completing his first term in office ? ) as the President of United States, “I have learnt to talk like the President”.
    I like the tone of speech in this weblog entry, sounds like that of a CEO. It is tough as it ought to be, as the situation calls for. It is a clear warning, and it is clear that you mean business. At the same time, you have not lost sight of Sun’s basic inclinations and have announced most of what might in the end be a fair award, donated away at the outset. That preemptively thwarts a possible miscampaign that you are suing for a bounty.
    But be careful, Jonathan. Dave calls you BigCo in his blog and it is a bit of a disadvantage to be the BigCo in certain circumstances. I don’t know how it is in the US, at least here in India, if there is a problem between a man and a woman, the man was oppressive, if there is a problem between the employer and the employee, the employer was aggressive, if there is a problem between a rich man and a poor man, the rich man was arrogant. That is what the world likes to conclude.
    The fair ground of a court room in today’s world extends well beyond the courtroom, across the internet, to the printed media and onto television. Perception causes opinions and opinions irrationally linger on, even on the face of the most logical and cohesive reason . You are a bit helpless when it comes to perception, because you are the BigCo.
    It would be easier for Sun Microsystems to fight a Microsoft, an IBM or an Oracle.
    Bill Clinton was roasted alive for something that the average common man would find hard to resist in circumstances so tempting. Bill Gates gets bashed up all the time and can’t hit back most of the time BECAUSE Microsoft is huge.
    I am not in anyway making a judgment about these two perceptibly powerful people, but saying this to alert you that your biggest weakness is your strength. Bill Clinton as a clerk in a post office or a as Team supervisor at IBM would have gotten away with the same flaws entirely unnoticed. If Bill Gates wrote software for Oracle in Kansas City he would have gotten a fairer and much better press than http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Bill_Gates. Poor, poor Bill Gates.
    I am writing all this as a person experiencing the opposite of all that I am writing here, which is what normally happens. The mighty are not normally mature enough to have humility or admit their wrongs and in a meaningless quest, more often than not, place the lesser adversary in a situation of helplessness.
    It happens all the time, so the irrational mind becomes prone to a safer generalization which is dangerous for an exceptionally good company. Dave is psychologically subtle in how he writes to position you as the aggressor.
    I am not saying all this to make your attorneys feel uncomfortable. It is to draw attention to the nuances of this unequal contest, unequal for the BigCo. I am sure that they will chart out effective strategies to call Dave’s bluff, if he is bluffing – I don’t know, I don’t know NetApp, so it is not fair on my part to pre-judge NetApp, but I know that Sun can not possibly be petty as Dave blogs. It would never be. That I know.

  52. [Trackback] I read two interesting blog posts today.
    The first is from Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Sun, about ZFS and free vs commercial software (and the lawsuits that are a result of this inherent conflict).
    To me, who isn’t very interested in their laws…

  53. How about sending a Thumper Cookie Jar to East Java Drive in Sunnyvale?
    I am sure many Sunnies would love the taste of the cookies they
    have had here for several years here.

  54. John

    Do figure out who started the lawsuit, just look at the lawsuit. A quick glance tells me this is Netapp vs Sun, aka, Netapp "started" this litigation. Business talk to each other all the time, but usually one goes for the gun. That’s NetApp here.
    And couldn’t agree more. Sun has got to put something like ZFS under the GPL if they wan’t actual open source pickup. If they want to dual license, fine, but the bs spinning I’ve heard about how CDDL is better misses the point.
    The Linux would uses GPL, and you wouldn’t pick incompatible licenses if you wanted to integrate.

  55. Many moons ago, my uncle wrote a song, and the tune was good but never a hit, several years later the "tune" was recorded by another artist-different name, different notes, but the melody was unmistakable. Insider knew where the artist got the "copied" tune from. In those days no one had enough money to "sue". Many years later, I was sitting at a bar with my uncle and the very famous artist, whose career was in large part associated with that "famous" tune. And my uncle looked over at him and said "that tune, it was mine right?" and the famous artist looked over at my uncle and said "yeah, you always knew it was" – they smiled and kept on drinking.
    Those were the days.

  56. Elizabeth

    No offense to anyone, but sounds to me like neither party learned how to play well together in the sandbox. Don’t get me wrong, my hats off the Sun and respective people’s innovation and contributing to the free software community, but I can also respect the fact that someone wants to make a living. I’m quite sure it’s not as cut and dry about the patent infringement from either side.
    I’ve read both blogs and filings, etc. I’m beside myself that the calibre of the people and companies involved here can’t come to a more respectible agreement or at least a quieter one.
    Is this really about someone standing up for the greater good/taking up for that which keeps the good man down…or is this really about vindictiveness, power, and who has the bigger truck (and smallest balls).
    I’m a huge fan of both parties and don’t want to see anything happen to anyone. In my humble opinion, each company brings a huge amount of value to the market and industry. The world is already tainted with poor taste, irrational lawsuits, and general lack of respect. Please try and play nice together and inspire people to better themselves.

  57. Daniel Stux

    For all you people whining about why Sun doesn’t use GPL, that was explained here:
    "Now despite what you suggest, we love where the FSF’s GPL3 is headed. For a variety of mechanical reasons, GPL2 is harder for us with OpenSolaris – but not impossible, or even out of the question. This has nothing to do with being afraid of the community (if it was, we wouldn’t be so interested in seeing ZFS everywhere, including Linux, with full patent indemnity). Why does open sourcing take so long? Because we’re starting from products that exist, in which a diversity of contributors and licensors/licensees have rights we have to negotiate. Indulge me when I say It’s different than starting from scratch. I would love to go faster, and we are all doing everything under our control to accelerate progress. (Remember, we can’t even pick GPL3 yet – it doesn’t officially exist.) It’s also a delicate dance to manage this transition while growing a corporation."
    In other words, because Sun is a commercial entity that is releasing its already-commercially-licensed products in to the community, it ain’t so cut and dry.
    It’s ok, let all the arm-chair commandos tell Sun how to run its business. We’ve kept our sh*t clean for over 20 years now. How many other companies can claim that?? We’ve had some legal scuffles but not a single one has had a lasting negative impact. People thought the suit against Microsoft was sour grapes until we walked away with 2 billion bucks and an agreement to work together.
    Sun is stronger than ever and its because of iron clad ethics and relentless innovation. Where exactly would NetApp be without NFS? Every penny NetApps makes is thanks to Sun.
    It amazes me how the consumers of open source software just whine for more more more. "Hey, jerky, give me some more of this great free software and STEP ON IT! What? Heck no I ain’t contributing! I’m an arm-chair commando!"

  58. Elizabeth

    No offense to anyone, but sounds to me like neither party learned how to play well together in the sandbox. Don’t get me wrong, my hats off the Sun and respective people’s innovation and contributing to the free software community, but I can also respect the fact that someone wants to make a living. I’m quite sure it’s not as cut and dry about the patent infringement from either side.
    I’ve read both blogs and filings, etc. I’m beside myself that the calibre of the people and companies involved here can’t come to a more respectible agreement or at least a quieter one.
    Is this really about someone standing up for the greater good/taking up for that which keeps the good man down…or is this really about vindictiveness, power, and who has the bigger truck and smallest balls.
    I’m a huge fan of both parties and don’t want to see anything happen to anyone. In my humble opinion, each company brings a huge amount of value to the market and industry. The world is already tainted with poor taste, irrational lawsuits, and general lack of respect. Please try and play nice together and inspire people to better themselves.

  59. Ben

    I have no idea about the merits of this case. Maybe SUN is right, or maybe not. But regardless of who’s right or wrong, this just spells confusion and trouble for both SUN & NetApp customers until the case is resolved. I’ll bet that EMC, HP, HDS, and other vendors must be rubbing their hands in glee at this opportunity. And of course the lawyers.
    By the way, it just seems like SUN has been getting increasingly involved in several patent as well as other lawsuits in recent years. From big company (Microsoft — http://www.news.com/2100-1001-856678.html) to startup (Azul — http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1957359,00.asp) to the Government (US DOJ — http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/04/19/HNdojjoinshpsunlawsuit_1.html). Maybe they just have a lot of good lawyers and need to find reasons to keep them busy.

  60. eric barlier

    personally I dont trust a guy that cant spell properly (its Netapp fyi) and that is blatantly trying a sales pitch at the end of his "heroic" defence of open source. This persona (who is he anyways?) is clearly hurting open source community.
    Good luck,

  61. Awesome post,Jonathan. I’m lost for words. Thanks to the FUD spread by Sun’s rivals, the community always failed to see the true face of Sun – an innovation friendly, non-litigious, open source company. Kudos to you for so effectively conveying Sun’s intent to the community and sending a strong message to patent trolls.

  62. Hodgy

    Let’s make everything free and then we won’t have to work for a living. Great idea you loser!


    Daniel Stux wrote:
    > In other words, because Sun is a commercial entity that is releasing its
    > already-commercially-licensed products in to the community, it ain’t so
    > cut and dry.
    Indeed, Sun is a commercial entity. And their dispute with Network Appliance is a commercial one. And because of that I consider it dishonest and unethical when Sun tries to make this a Network Appliance vs. Free Software issue. This is about business.
    > It’s ok, let all the arm-chair commandos tell Sun how to run its business.
    Jonathan can run his little empire as he pleases. He should just be aware that trying to rally up the free software and open source communities to help Sun in their commercial dispute with Network Appliance is inappropriate. In particular because Sun has proven in the past not be a reliable ally to the FOSS community.
    > its because of iron clad ethics
    Sun cuts deals with SCO when it pleases Sun. Sun cuts deals with Microsoft when it pleases Sun. Sun deliberately crafted their open-source license to be incompatible with the GPL. Sun screwed the Blackdown.org people. Sun screwed OpenOffice contributors. All fine and legal. But don’t count on the FOSS community if you do such things. And don’t cite "iron clad ethics" when you try to spin a commercial dispute into an attack on open source.
    > It amazes me how the consumers of open source software just whine for more more more.
    > "Hey, jerky, give me some more of this great free software and STEP ON IT! What? Heck
    > no I ain’t contributing! I’m an arm-chair commando!"
    Your derogative remarks about FOSS users are very telling about the real mindset at Sun. In public Sun now plays the "look, we are the largest open source contributer in the world", on the other hand it is deep in the collective mindset of Sun that FOSS users are parasites and that Sun sees FOSS contributors just as a source of free unpaid labor who otherwise have to shut up.

  64. Anonymous

    GPL isn’t a requirement for use under Linux, only GPL-compatibility.
    So, here Jonathan starts out by comparing the innovation and freedom Linux allows (precisely because of the GPL) to ZFS. Yet, that freedom isn’t granted to the community he’s trying to gain support from.
    Right, so other people here say nothing is for free … sure, so why can’t I use ZFS under Linux on the Sun X4500 (for which Linux is a supported OS) I bought from Sun? I can run filesystems from most of Sun’s competitors (JFS, XFS etc.), and these companies aren’t even trying to get some kind of backing from the community. Recent issues I have had regarding support by Sun on their hardware on OSs they claim to support (but haven’t qualified with SAN vendors) leaves me wondering if we should just buy from a vendor who actually supports Linux on their hardware (like Dell or HP), instead of just claiming to.
    And, GPLv3 has been available for months now (right, this wouldn’t solve the problem either yet – but this excuse is no longer valid).
    If Sun wants the "open source community" to back them, why are they not cooperating, and removing more encumberances from ZFS? Maybe because that would limit the value of ZFS to Sun?

  65. Mark

    "As a part of this suit, we are requesting a permanent injunction to remove all of their filer products from the marketplace"
    Boys boys! Play nicely! You’re sounding like little children who have tantrums when they’re not getting their own way. Drop the threats, shake hands, and come to some amicable arrangement. CEOs should know better than to use blogs to take swipes at each other. It’s unprofessional. Talk about airing your dirty laundry in public. Sheesh, I miss Scott’s leadership.

  66. Gerard

    Jonathan, you’re probably right. And so is Dave.
    this is not as black/white as you want us to believe.
    To me, Sun is no more trustworthy then it was 10 years ago. It is a company, driven by shareholders, and therefore has to cash on everything they do. And while your software is open source, it is not free in the sense that it empowers your customers. Its only beneficiary is Sun. And that is the exact reason why you chose the CDDL, and not any other, more free license.
    Not that it is a problem. But don’t try and make it look as if you are Santa Claus. Others can look at the presents, they don’t get to have them.

  67. Mac ZFS lover

    You Linux guys crack me up. I love ZFS, I can run it on Leopard, I can run it on Solaris. I even noodled around with the BSD port. Apple seems to have no problem incorporating the IP and theyre a big commercial company. That’s what freedom is all about. Choice. But somehow you think Sun made their license incompatible? WHAT? The GPL is incompatible with everything.

  68. Here’s a germane story about computer system patent licensing involving
    IBM and Sun. (For a while this was an apocryphal tale, but was finally
    recounted by Gary Reback, a principal in DOJ v. Microsoft):
    Network Appliance, at their blog, claims this amusing story is analogous to
    the current situation.

  69. Having read through your countersuit at http://blogs.sun.com/dillon/resource/SunAnswer.pdf I’m really impressed with how thorough it is. The bottom line is that if NetApp were to lose its filer IP or be found to violate your IP, it would have virtually nothing protecting its price points, whereas if Sun were to lose its ZFS IP, it would stil have a thousand more products and services to sell (servers, Sparc chips, Sun Ray, Java, etc). This surely has to be a risky situation for any NTAP shareholder, and some cross-licensing agreement seems inevitable. I bet Google’s black box patent is easier for you to cross-license, especially since Eric is an old Sun alumnus.

  70. I am using SUN technology since 15 years. As a matter of fact, it was SUN that gave me a brand new free workstation to port GNU freeware to Sun OS in 1993. I developed a tiny little web app on it which grew in one of the first Web 2.0 services in 1994 and into the second largest Online-Services in germany. So – SUN has supported ‘freeware’ and the free software environment for a long time. SUN will always have my support and gratitude for helping me and the spirit of ‘Free Software’. Michaela.

  71. The response is "Move every Zig".
    Well done.

  72. Win, Sun, WIN!!!

    I LOVE the "Perfect Storm" screen capture of the large wave about to hit the boat. (I’m guessing it’s from that movie.) However, did you seek permission in using that image?
    Back to the main subject:
    Sun Microsystems (JAVA) has the right mentality where open source/business is concerned. I applaud the actions taken to defend ZFS, as well as other Sun open source projects/technologies. Sun has proven itself to be, imho, the #1 global high tech company for open source, particular with the scope of products/projects/technologies. IBM, HP, Dell, Red Hat – none of them come close.
    WIN those lawsuits, Sun!!

  73. nobody

    Mac ZFS Lover, I’m a Linux Zealot. Did you know the GPL is compatible with BSD and many other non-GNU licenses?
    There are no excuses.

  74. Thanks for filing defensive patent application – that appears to be the only way forward. One advantage of using GPL3 for Sun products is it really drives home the point and reinforces your intentions through its implicit grant of patent licenses. Patents + GPL3 = beating the old broken system.

  75. Jason

    Whining about not being able to add ZFS to linux is blaming a cow for a vegetarian not eating hamburgers (I cannot however take original credit for that comparison). The Linux and GPL zealots need to get over themselves.
    The CDDL is a free (as in freedom)license, RMS himself says so, so any arguments cannot be based on freedom unless you also want to repudiate the principles of the GPL. The only difference is with GPL, there is an agenda — to coerce others into also freeing their software, while the CDDL has no concerns about other’s code — only that what is open remains open (including any changes made to it). This is not to say the agenda of the FSF and the GPL is a bad one, in fact, I suspect many within Sun would agree with it.
    However, from everything I’ve seen, if Sun was truly committed to opening Solaris, the CDDL (or something equivalent) was really their only option — anything else (including the GPL) would put them between a rock and a hard place. Instead of praise, they get crapped on by armchair developers because they can’t give them 100% of what they want. BFD.
    Nothing is preventing using the existing code as a kernel module just like the nvidia or veritas modules for linux (which unlike ZFS are closed source). Even ignoring that, there is no reason someone couldn’t write a clean room implementation of ZFS — the on disk specs are available with no restrictions, or even use the GPL’d code Sun contributed to GRUB for ZFS boot as a starting point. Put up or shut up.
    Linux is really good at reimplenting the work of others (some would argue that’s all it’s good at, but that’s besides the point). I don’t see any reason why such a thing wouldn’t be successful.
    As for the actual subject of the blog entry, it remains to be seen who’s telling the truth. Right now there’s a lot of ‘he said, she said’ going on, and a single email from the middle of conversation isn’t exactly convincing, without all the conversations, it’s too easy to cherry pick things that support one version or another. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
    But for those involved with free software, you should be worried about the case. Today, NetApp says they’re not interested in suing the community. All you have is the word of the current executive. What were to happen if a less enlightened CEO were to replace him and decide differently? Sun at least has put it’s money where it’s mouth is and would be committing legal suicide if it tried that (due to the CDDL).

  76. josh

    wow. i don’t think i have ever seen the patent system used for good instead of evil. thank you. for once i am glad that a major corporation has zillions of patents on things that usually should not be patented.

  77. jk

    Wow, it took 81 comments for a truly open-minded perspective- props to Jason! I would expect more of that from the rest of you Open Source advocates!!
    "As for the actual subject of the blog entry, it remains to be seen who’s telling the truth. Right now there’s a lot of ‘he said, she said’ going on, and a single email from the middle of conversation isn’t exactly convincing, without all the conversations, it’s too easy to cherry pick things that support one version or another. The truth is probably somewhere in between."

  78. I think the anti-GPL zealots need to get over themselves and stop throwing around words like "coerce" the meaning of which they clearly don’t understand. Its a "license" – get it? It has terms of use. You don’t like ’em, don’t use the code. Simple. Where is the coercion? Contracts and licenses employ what are sometimes called "unilateral offer doctrines" – you have to abide by these rules in order to play. No one is coercing you to use GPL-ed code. Why not reimplement it and then release it under BSD? You are "free" to do that.

  79. Sounds like the best solution would be a cross licensing deal. Win-Win and you can both get back to innovating!

  80. Ben

    This one is a must read and almost sounds like something out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not:
    "IBM patents making money from patents"
    Right, so SUN & NetApp are gonna fight each other in this case. And there will be plenty of other patent lawsuits between other companies as well. But IBM will come collecting at the end regardless of who wins. What a world we live in, huh!

  81. Ankur G

    Microsoft is threating Red Hat users claiming patent violations. Is it start of crusade by proprietry companies against open source?
    I think open source leaders like Sun needs to unite and protect the open source community a wee bit more aggressively.

  82. Damon LaCaille

    Oh, SNAP! As always, Jonathan goes straight to the heart of the matter and shows undeniable insight, courage and logic.
    Only a company (and CEO) that is confident in their products can pull something like this off. It’s really unfortunate that a well known company like NetApp doesn’t take the higher road and try to benefit from FREE innovations, rather than try to stifle them and hoard.
    As gamers know, the ‘hoarding’ or ‘turtling’ strategy rarely works long term. The only way to really win is to continuously expand.
    RIP NetApp, it won’t be long

  83. solaris

    Netapp wouldn’t be doing this if they weren’t VERY scared…..and they are!!
    ZFS must have something big in the works….or they wouldnt be pulling this krap.
    I think Sun is going to slap Netapp around like a drunk Southern widow!!!
    For a tier 3 player like netapp even to be in this game, shows the naivity of customers.

  84. smokey

    all the argument I read on who started this patent war is just missing the point. It doesn’t matter who started it. It matters how it is going to come out, and I think Sun is going to come out a big winner.
    The lawsuit is giving a lot attention to ZFS, and it’s giving plenty of credibility to zfs as a good storage technology (The fact that Netapp is involved, really helps). If netapp started this, they are not doing themselves a service… If sun started it, it’s a brilliant move.

  85. teknosapien

    Man I so would love to work for these peeps, but alas I dont have the *chops*, just the love for FOSS community and the advancement of the net community at large.
    One FreeBSD server, one Linux server, and a Open source house hold

  86. Bill Todd

    ‘solaris’, you appear very confused: if there’s a ‘tier 3 player’ in this game, that would be Sun.
    Sun hasn’t managed to succeed in storage for a *long* time – it hasn’t even been able to keep its own system customers in line, save by reselling other vendors’ products. Acquiring StorageTek didn’t provide the boost Sun apparently hoped for either.
    By contrast, NetApp and EMC are by a *large* margin the most successful storage stories of the past two decades – and pure plays, unlike Sun. Both started out with aggressive innovation and have continued to develop and extend their product lines over time (though NetApp arguably more innovatively than EMC). A one-hit wonder like ZFS isn’t going to do anything to change that: while it does have a few improvements to offer (at least over competing open source file systems, though not over WAFL), it’s just not *enough* of an improvement to have that kind of an effect.
    My own guess is that NetApp wouldn’t have countered Sun’s demand for cash so aggressively if it weren’t extremely confident of its legal position: unlike Jonathan, they’re not inclined to run off at the mouth but instead calmly evaluate the actual merits of a situation and then act as they feel those merits dictate.
    Because NetApp has a lot more on the line here than Sun does, and it would have been downright stupid of them to have forced the issue if they felt there was any real probability of it back-firing on them. And whatever you may think of them, they’re not, in any way, shape, or form, stupid.
    Jonathan has done a remarkable job of enlisting a very vocal (though it’s still not clear how significant) portion of the open source community by framing this as something other than the fairly mundane corporate patent squabble that it in fact it. Of course, not all open source advocates are that gullible – Linus, for example, doesn’t seem to be laboring under any rosy misconceptions about Sun’s motives (http://lkml.org/lkml/2007/6/12/232).
    In any event, we’ll eventually see how this plays out, and whether the apparently new court attitude toward software-related patents makes the entire matter irrelevant.
    – bill

  87. Th

    Several thoughts after reading both Sun’s and NetApp’s claims:
    First, Jonathan really needs to respond to the claim that Sun’s lawyer started this mess by demanding $36 million from NetApp. He seems to try to gloss over this.
    As for ZFS itself, the technology behind it aside, the way it is implemented is, from many users’ perspective, "heavily inspired" by NetApp’s WAFL. I asked many sys admin I know after looking at ZFS and their reaction is like "yeah, it’s very similar to the NetApp."
    On another note, why did Sun not do this 10 years ago. By not innovating enough in the file system, Sun had practically helped create NetApp to become their major competitor today.
    Lastly, Sun can’t blame NetApp for being upset, while acting as if Sun is saint because Sun releases their own software as open source. As Dave Hitz of NetApp mentioned in his blog, the main question is whether Sun has the right to release it in the first place. So, this battle is strictly Sun vs NetApp, not NetApp vs open source community like Jonathan is trying to imply.
    Sun would not be pleased either if HP (for example) claims to have patent claims over Solaris and then release Solaris or a Solaris-resemble derivative to the community under HP’s own open license term. Would Sun not sue HP over such practice? I bet Sun would.

  88. Peter

    Groklaw has a good article:
    Closed companies cannot draw on enough labour or Intellectual resources to compete with open, collaborative companies like Sun. I don’t think leveraging software patent portfolios is going to work, long term, I think NetApp is finished unless they change their focus, they still have the opportunity to open up and use zfs in their products.

  89. Interesting developments indeed. Nice work.

  90. Silicon Valley Anon

    I spent 10 years inside Solaris as a software developer. I also worked on WAFL while at Netapp. Its interesting that the argument is usually framed between WAFL and ZFS when it should really be between Solaris and Data ONTAP. On the basis of technical innovation, modularity and architectural scalability Solaris is ahead of ONTAP. One of the reasons for GX is that the monolithic ONTAP scales every poorly with multi-core and is a nightmare to debug or maintain.
    Sun is one of the most innovative companies I have worked at in the Valley spanning a period of about three decades. Unfortunately, save for brief periods in its history, Sun continues to be the worst when it comes to execution. Engineering and line management often has the right ideas but the execution comes out as misdirected, incomplete, poorly aligned and is invariably monetized by competitors. The Cisco’s, BEA’s and the Netapp’s (never mind Linux) of this world would simply not exist if Sun had executed successfully at appropriate times. Innovative one-off ideas like ZFS and Thumper not withstanding- Sun seems to have no chance in hell succeeding in storage. The StorageTek acquisition has been a failure. Most senior StorageTek folks have left. Sun does not the breadth of pure storage plays such as EMC and Netapp to be taken seriously in this space. Sun’s attach rates are poor- even for its seriously cool hardware.
    Most of the folks I talk to don’t even consider Sun a credible storage vendor. Jonathan’s latest rearranging of the deck chairs
    may well be the last gasp for storage at Sun.
    Don’t get me wrong- I would be happy for Sun to succeed- the world needs the brilliance and innovation that has flowed from Sun for the last 2 decades. My sense is that a few years from now, the companies will have settled out of court, neither side will have admited anything and storage at Sun will continue its unfortunate downward spiral.

  91. Zero Admin

    What Sun storage innovation?
    The only reason Sun has offered any open source is because they can’t sell their software. Look at Apple and Microsoft making money off of their IP. Which companies are more profitable – not Sun. Sun just hates acknowledging the terrible decision in buying a tape company when disk to disk is gaining marketshare.
    Since they’re so enamored with the concept of no revenue for IP, why doesn’t Sun just open source the design specs of their hardware as well?
    Give me a break.
    My concern is that I still own Sun stock before it tanked and Sun seems to pull these stunts prior to announcing bad earnings.
    One thing Sun excels in above any other tech company out there – layoff procedure.

  92. Great response, Nobody block new tide. just we have to ride on that. We strongly agree with Jonathan and his words.

  93. Thommy M. Malmström

    Dear Zero Admin, ever heard of opensparc.org ??? You can actually make a profit on open source, look at NetApp.

  94. Zero Admin

    Dear Malmström,
    OpenSPARC.org only addresses a CPU spec. Typical Sun doublespeak.
    Our you can make a profit by suing other companies like Sun vs Microsoft.
    By the way, didn’t Microsoft develop their own version of Java? Isn’t Java open-source?

  95. Alan Jones

    Hi Jonathan,
    With the reply Dave gave to this post I felt it was time to comment. I replied to Dave on the following link (a copy is at the bottom of this post in case the other is removed).
    The observations I made on his posting also triggered an observation on your own. I do not see a single instance where you twist the meaning of words in order to evoke an emotional response from the reader. You write clearly and this gives the reader a feeling of being treated respectfully. Your blog should be considered a model for customer relations on a one to many scale.
    Thanks for your candor and continuing support of FLOSS community.
    ==============Original command to Dave’s Blog below================
    Hi Dave,
    While I appreciate that you must believe in your cause I felt I should share a couple of observations.
    The first is that you’re treating your readers like idiots by using language that attempts to frame the issue. Claiming Sun’s code is stealing from you is false. The best you can do is claim it infringes your patent. Sun wrote the code, they clearly own the code. i.e. It is not your code. So claiming they are stealing from you is forcing the word steal in purely for its biasing, emotive value.
    I would not have taken further look at the claims had I not encountered such poor attempts to sway my opinion with colorful language. Seeing such a simplistic approach to influence my opinion convinced me to take a look at the patent in question.
    The wording of the patent seems deliberately opaque, I imagine in order to make it as broad as possible and reduce the risk of the patent approval process throwing it out on grounds of obviousness. Perhaps I did not understand it fully, but I’m a coder so at least had some idea of its context. It appears to say that in order to ensure something doesn’t accidentally get deleted don’t remove the old version before you’re written the new one. In other words if you don’t want to walk with bare feet don’t throw out your old shoes before you’ve got new ones. I’ve got to say there is no way I’d ever have let that past the obviousness test if I were approving the patent, nor would I support it as the basis for a case if I were on the jury.
    Now perhaps I have misread something, but that doesn’t matter with regards to the image you’re projecting. If you want to avoid giving the impression of aggressively using insubstantial patents then you’ll need to start by ensuring you use language that seems honest and direct. There will be more technical readers around and you shouldn’t be shy about the technical details. If there truly is something to your claim it will become apparent very quickly.

  96. Zoltan Farkas

    An alternate view of the StorageTek acquisition.
    1.Access to IBM & Co customers.
    2.Intellectual Property that STK has (NetApp saw some value in it).
    3.Tape is not dead (http://www-03.ibm.com/industries/media/doc/content/bin/DMG_tape_disk.pdf), and the key here: more environmentally friendly than disk, and looking at current trends this is becoming more important each day.
    4. ZFS + STK + Lustre could result in some scalable storage solutions.
    5. There is plenty of other synergies that could be exploited… like put a tape library in a project black box container … that would be some cool off site backup/archiving solution 🙂 …

  97. Scott Myers

    Many 3-letter organizations depend on the NetApp product line in a significant way. We’ll need to develop a transition plan to make the migration as simple and transparent as possible.
    Go ahead, get nas-ty.

  98. How about launching some low-end mini-Thumper type gear? I was just reading about NetApp’s new S3000 targeted at the SMB market. You don’t appear to have this kind of small sexy storage kit. I checked the 4500 and it’s big and heavy and starts at $25k. Just an idea…

  99. Bill Todd

    Hi, Alan!
    Since you’ve seen fit to reproduce your post in Dave’s blog here, I guess I should reproduce my response to it here as well (the actual entry is http://blogs.netapp.com/dave/2007/10/to-netapp-emplo.html#comment-88029928):
    Hi, Alan –
    I suspect that you might benefit from the use of a dictionary (a U.S. dictionary, just in case you’re somewhere else where definitions might slightly differ from the context in which this discussion is taking place). The first that springs to hand lists, as its first definition of ‘steal’, "to take or appropriate (another’s property, ideas, etc.) without permission, dishonestly, or unlawfully…" So while I recognize that it has become fashionable among those who like to ‘appropriate’ (do look that up as well if you’re unclear as to its definition) legally-protected intellectual property without bothering to do so in the manner required by law to claim that they are not ‘stealing’, this claim is in fact false and Dave’s use of the word ‘steal’ is entirely appropriate (a completely different use of the same word – English is like that, I’m afraid).
    Furthermore, while Dave used the word ‘steal’ in his cookie analogy (and once arguably more generally but immediately following that analogy), he studiously used the word ‘infringe’ everywhere else while discussing the actual issue with Sun. Most browsers provide a ‘search’ facility to detect character strings on a Web page: I suggest that you make more frequent use of that in the future.
    So castigating Dave for "treating [his] readers like idiots" would seem inappropriate (again, the different meaning of that word) even if it were true (though the truth of that assertion seems at least highly questionable): a significant percentage of the ‘readers’ squawking here actually *do* seem to be something resembling idiots, since even addressing them in the simplest possibl[e] language apparently fails to enlighten them (or, in your specific case, where your use of even simple language with proper meanings seems to be a challenge).
    Ah – that felt good (I confess, perhaps just a tad sheepishly). Now to matters of more substance:
    You appear to be making your first acquaintance with U. S. patents here. If you have the misfortune to become better acquainted with them, you will find that they are virtually *all* broad, opaque, and generally inaccessible to those unversed in the arcane minutiae of patent language. There is probably a much better way to run this railroad, but unfortunately this is what we’re currently stuck with – so don’t blame NetApp for following its rules.
    In fact, there were almost certainly aspects of NetApp’s original design that were eminently patentable: it was a novel combination of existing (and AFAIK one or two arguably new) hardware and software technologies to achieve a result greater than the nominal sum of its parts. That said, I wouldn’t perform the investigation (an investigation which you haven’t even scratched the surface of) required to determine the likely enforceability of this particular set of patents without the incentive of significant monetary reward (including a major pain-in-the-ass premium).
    If Dave has not been as ‘honest and direct’ as you might wish, I suspect it’s because NetApp’s lawyers won’t allow him to be lest his words be misinterpreted by laymen in a manner that might jeopardize NetApp’s case. If that’s not what’s holding him back, I join you in hoping that he’ll get very specific. In any event, I applaud him for his readiness to discuss this matter with any and all, pro or con, here (I applaud Jonathan Schwartz for a similar approach, by the way, though consider Jonathan’s own statements to have been far more spin-like in character than Dave’s have been).
    [combined reply to a different poster snipped]
    – bill

  100. Splendid ! You are noteworthy and aren’t shy of picking up the most debatable topics. I truly wish the results are exactly what u expect…

  101. Feedback

    All this is clear indication of storage area has huge potential and Sun’s products like Thumper will play a big role.
    And i agree with Zoltan Farkas post.
    Innovate –> Lead –> Add value to customers –> Win big time!
    Go Sun Go …

  102. I second that your topics are first class and you got the balls to tread where others fear to go. I will me following you blog with the greatest of interest from now on.

  103. Anonymous

    It’s good to see a company standing up against the idiots that think that courtroom decisions are more important than engineering technology. I’m going to go buy some Sun stock now.

  104. Richard

    I think you should just buy/merge with NTAP, the problem would be solved, and your company would be worth 10B more.

  105. swordgeek

    I do believe this is the least stupid thing that JS has said in years, and I’m impressed.
    I have used NetApp gear a lot, and ZFS a fair bit now. They’re not the same. That much should be clear to anyone who uses it. WAFL is actually better than ZFS in many ways (and is also much more mature) but NetApp’s third-rate NFS and LDAP support hurt their usefulness.
    However, that’s all irrelevant the the issue at hand. So is the question of who fired the first shot. NetApp asked a question, Sun answered, NetApp said, "Not good enough," Sun said, "bite me!", and then all hell broke loose. Who’s in the wrong here? Easy–the ego-driven CEOs of these companies. Jonathan Schwartz and Dave Hitz should be stuck in a room with their legal teams and a ruler, and can argue to their hearts’ content about who has the bigger dick. In the meantime, the companies can run along without having to worry about idiotic lawsuits, and compete on their actual merits.
    Jonathan, if you want to something useful for a change, offer an olive branch. Put forth an agreement to NetApp offering bidirectional revenue-neutral amnesty from lawsuits on all existing technology. Stand down, put away your six-shooter, and get Dave to agree to do the same. Otherwise, you two are going to continue dragging your companies down. (And make no mistake–NetApp WILL win the attrition battle.)
    Business is harmful to technology. As a technology company, you need to put your products and skills ahead of your stupid ego and stupid short-term business schemes.

  106. Gil

    NetApp is to be is a tough competitor on the storage side but I would also watch what Sun’s "friend" Google is doing on the mobile side (no JavaFX, Sun hardware needed) and what Oracle is doing on the middleware side with BEA Systems (no Solaris10 or middleware needed), your 2 friendly Silicon Valley companies will be moving into Sun’s $$$$$ turf.

  107. Klaus Moorlie

    Mr.Schwartz, be as open as you claim to be! Knock down that wall and dual license ZFS!
    Sun has made serious headway in understanding open source and commodity hardware. However, they are no where near the end of the journey and need to resolve the CDDL and GPL silliness that is a serious impediment to true innovation.
    Doing this would be an example for companies that want to prolong proprietary lock in and stiffle innovation. It would mean a lot more then countersuits and blog entries (even if I believe NetApp should NOT be sueing in the first place).
    Also, What happened with your offer to have dinner with Linus?

  108. The Zoltan Farkas comment on ZFS/STK tape synergies is constructive.
    Add to this the Sun/Apple projects with ZFS underway.
    Already compelling to Apple for both future Xserve robustness
    and great Sun server / Apple client interoperability,
    tape archiving could be useful at the end of the Apple TIme Machine
    disk pipeline, wherein the monthly backups elegantly collected
    on disk are staged to electricity-free archival media.
    In the home setting with Time Machine, people may opt for
    file cabinet collections of spent Firewire disks, but in the
    machine room (or Blackbox) setting, a Thumper tape add-on
    surely makes more sense.
    There’s never been a better time for Sun/Apple collaboration
    in these and other arenas…

  109. I think Sun is having a TON of fun at linux’s expense. Consider that FreeBSD, MacOS X, and Solaris all have ZFS and DTrace, while linux and Windows… do not.
    Further, Sun not only understands "Open Source", they grok *Free Software* as well.
    Linux is on the run, see the editorial from ‘maddog’ in this month’s Linux Journal.

  110. Anon

    Sun needs to Shine Bright
    Sun’s claim on NFS looks silly. Looks like everyone using Telephone should pay rights to Alexander Graham Bell.
    They need to Re-Invent. Not to Open up Technologies of Smaller companies.
    – Microsoft will not accept anyone using thier Windows code..(Not even similar name)
    – EMC will not share DMX/Clariion Code
    Not even Samsung will share TV/Mobile Technology open.
    Sun’s expectancy that Small Tech Companies like NetApp share thier core for ZFS is totally unacceptable.
    Certain Technologies are BreadWinners for Small companies and Should Never be Open. Imagine what happens to DataDomain, Isilon, Intransa, 3par…All will vanish as they use some basic technologies like NFS invented by others.
    Sun is a Great Company in the past with Glories of Solaris and Java. With that respect they should Innovate Something Good for the community.

  111. Good article Jonathon… you make good works.
    keep on please , use the power of free source.

  112. Hi Jonathan, any news on making the ZFS license compatible with Linux or is that too big a risk for Sun?

  113. have you any news on making the ZFS license compatible with Linux or is that too big a risk for Sun?

  114. Out of court settlement is best. in court only lawyers make money.

  115. all the argument I read on who started this patent war is just missing the point. It doesn’t matter who started it. It matters how it is going to come out, and I think Sun is going to come out a big winner.
    The lawsuit is giving a lot attention to ZFS, and it’s giving plenty of credibility to zfs as a good storage technology (The fact that Netapp is involved, really helps). If netapp started this, they are not doing themselves a service… If sun started it, it’s a brilliant move.

  116. Charles Soto

    I hear "ZFS and WAFL are not the same!" The claim is made that this falsifies the claim that ZFS could be "disruptive" to the proprietary vendors. Nonsense. YouTube is fundamentally different from your TV delivery platform. But is it disruptive? You bet.
    The very interesting thing we’re witnessing is that "commodity server" capability has reached a point where it can once again take up the reins in providing scalable, robust network services. At some point, a "server" became a performance or stability liability, at which point proprietary solutions ensued. This was an innovation that proved thoroughly disruptive to the established providers (don’t have to remind anyone at Sun of this). The extreme developments in standard system architecture have eroded performance and stability advances brought by the proprietary vendors. Today, software-provided intelligence and cross-platform/vendor compatibility tend to trump any small gain those now-established providers maintain.
    EMC, IBM, and now Sun seem to get it – value is in the software layer. Provide commodity hardware solutions like Thumper, then create the magic in software. Then make your profits in the support contracts!

  117. Michael Chaney

    My, my, somebody bit the wrong ankle.

  118. Anonymous

    Sun employees are bombarded with great news every day. JAVA is down 44 cents. If Sun is doing so great, why is the stock going down ? Stop Cheer Leading until stock goes up (and not by reverse split). Changing stock symbol and reverse split is not going to make Sun successful.

  119. Steve Mueller

    As corporate CEOs go, I think you rock, first off. Nice to see someone stand the ground, even in the face of litigation.
    As much as I liked Network Appliance, no more. ZFS on Solaris makes Netapps look like pitiful clowns of the data center.
    The mere fact that Network Appliance isn’t looking into ZFS shows they are running scared.
    Once upon a time, I even thought Netapp would be a smart buy for Sun, no more! Drown ’em
    in ZFS and Solaris lovelyness…

  120. Anonymous Coward

    Hey Linux Zealot, did you know that the GPL is only one-way compatible with those other licenses?
    Did you know that people routinely adopt code from BSD, relicense it under the GPL, make improvements, and don’t give those improvements back to BSD under the BSD license? Software under the BSD license cannot be extended by code written under the GPL.
    Funny enough, all the while while this one-way code "sharing" is taking place, the GPL Zealots say that what’s wrong with the BSD licenses is that private companies can take BSD code, change the license, and not share back. Pot. Kettle. Black.

  121. thank you very good article

  122. Anonymous

    Thank you for supporting open source…

  123. Ron

    Why not buy NetApp?

  124. Very nice article, and marvellous standpoint.
    I hope the industry would have more innovative leaders like yourself.

  125. BIT

    totally lol @ "trolls" — hahaha. should make an interesting case too, and sure to put the comparison in front of more folks to consider. either way it won’t be good for NetApp
    pls post links to the filings..

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