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Oracle, NetApp Drop ZFS Patent Suit 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the there-will-be-peace-in-our-time dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It seems Oracle and NetApp have kissed and made up over the ZFS patent lawsuit. Before Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, NetApp sued Sun claiming ZFS infringed on its patents. Sun later sued NetApp back. From today, all is forgotten and Oracle and NetApp are friends. NetApp CEO Tom Georgens even said the two companies have shared a 'common vision' focused on providing solutions that reduce IT cost and complexity. Both companies now want collaboration between them to continue."
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Oracle, NetApp Drop ZFS Patent Suit

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  • showing any concern for this, whatsoever.
    • by bsDaemon (87307) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:56AM (#33532762)

      Well, you should. NetApp deals strongly with FreeBSD, and it is my understanding that they use it as part of their platform, which is a good bit of the reason why FreeBSD has had ZFS support for so long. In the Linux world, battles over patent and licensing issues with regards to ZFS is what has kept it from being able to enjoy native support. Oracle runs its own Linux distribution based off of RHEL, so being able to make sure that the coast is clear for them to integrated ZFS into Linux is a big step. This is probably part of the reason why the planned native ZFS module to be released in a few weeks isn't already being sued into oblivion.

      You may not care about the corporate fortunes of NetApp or Oracle, but this has the potential to turn out into good news for lots of FLOSS-minded people.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, you should. NetApp deals strongly with FreeBSD, and it is my understanding that they use it as part of their platform, which is a good bit of the reason why FreeBSD has had ZFS support for so long. In the Linux world, battles over patent and licensing issues with regards to ZFS is what has kept it from being able to enjoy native support. Oracle runs its own Linux distribution based off of RHEL, so being able to make sure that the coast is clear for them to integrated ZFS into Linux is a big step. This is probably part of the reason why the planned native ZFS module to be released in a few weeks isn't already being sued into oblivion.

        You may not care about the corporate fortunes of NetApp or Oracle, but this has the potential to turn out into good news for lots of FLOSS-minded people.

        Don't overestimate Oracle's intent here.

        Probably, Larry just got around to noticing that NetApp had patent-trolled Oracle's new acquisition and he had Oracle's lawyers send NetApp an offer they couldn't refuse: drop your suit and we'll drop our counterclaims, otherwise we'll bring Oracle's entire IP portfolio into play and totally horse fuck you.

        Either that or Larry wants to buy NetApp.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Teckla (630646)

          Probably, Larry just got around to noticing that NetApp had patent-trolled Oracle's new acquisition and he had Oracle's lawyers send NetApp an offer they couldn't refuse: drop your suit and we'll drop our counterclaims, otherwise we'll bring Oracle's entire IP portfolio into play and totally horse fuck you.

          Let's not all lose sight of the fact that two big companies coming to an agreement, whether explicitly or implicitly, not to sue each other over patents does not help small companies, individuals, or Free Software/Open Source.

          Small companies, individuals, and Free Software/Open Source in general does not have a large enough patent chest to get the same kind of, "I won't sue you for patent infringement, if you don't sue me for patent infringement," kind of a deal.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          Or NetApp realizes they have smaller fish to fry.... like those companies building NAS hardware based on ZFS. No reason to go after Oracle itself, in a fight you maybe cannot win, to protect sales of your aging NAS platform, if you can go after companies using ZFS/BTRFs instead, much smaller targets with much less legal muster to defend themselves.

          • by 00lmz (733976)
            Sun is stopping open development for OpenSolaris anyway. Any opensource ZFS adaptation will now be behind the Solaris implementation, since the next source drop is when Solaris 11 is released.
            • by mysidia (191772)

              Who said anything about NAS manufacturers using open source adaptations of it? Some of them might use open source adaptations, others use closed source ones, such as Solaris itself, or some in-house-enhanced variant of Solaris, they keep closed source.

              Open source implementations may also fork ZFS, add their own improvements, and create their own enhanced ZFS, that could be better than anything Oracle makes.

              That is, if ZFS is no longer actively developed, the natural thing for a group of open source dev

          • by drsmithy (35869)

            Or NetApp realizes they have smaller fish to fry.... like those companies building NAS hardware based on ZFS. No reason to go after Oracle itself, in a fight you maybe cannot win, to protect sales of your aging NAS platform, if you can go after companies using ZFS/BTRFs instead, much smaller targets with much less legal muster to defend themselves.

            It's hard to see where there would be any crossover between customers for mid-range and high-end storage systems like NetApp's, and tied-to-a-dead-platform, lo

            • by mysidia (191772)

              It's hard to see where there would be any crossover between customers for mid-range and high-end storage systems like NetApp's, and tied-to-a-dead-platform, low-end storage appliances like anything based on OpenSolaris.

              It's hard to see where there would be any crossover between customers for mid-range and high-range Internet Browsers like Microsoft's, and tied-to-a-dead-platform, low-end Web browsers, like anything based on Netscape/Mozilla

              • by drsmithy (35869)

                It's hard to see where there would be any crossover between customers for mid-range and high-range Internet Browsers like Microsoft's, and tied-to-a-dead-platform, low-end Web browsers, like anything based on Netscape/Mozilla

                On what basis do you judge IE to be "high range" and Mozilla to be "tied to a dead platform" ?

                • Exactly.

                • by mysidia (191772)

                  On what basis do you judge IE to be "high range"

                  MSIE is part of Microsoft's Premium Windows platform.

                  The Mozilla platform's not "tied" to the dead platform. Mozilla (also known as Netscape Browser) is the dead browser platform whose development ceased when Netscape was dissolved in 2003, and development ceased.

                  It's basically in a worse situation than even OpenSolaris-based distributions. At least, Solaris is still being developed, you know.

                  • by drsmithy (35869)

                    Yeah, I know.

                    Basically, I'm struggling with what your whole argument/analogy is supposed to be. NetApp make mid-range to high-end storage systems. I'm not aware of any OpenSolaris-based appliances that would even make it into the low end of the enterprise space (except maybe for dev/test purposes). In particular, they tend to lack things like controller redundancy, FC connectivity, 10G ethernet, vendor support and certification with third party products (eg: VMware).

                    Or, in other words, it's difficult t

                    • by mysidia (191772)

                      You didn't hear of Sun Unified Storage [oracle.com] yet? Controller redundancy is available out of the box on certain NASes, otherwise you can add it.

                      In particular, they tend to lack things like controller redundancy,

                      Usually if you need this, you, well, put two HBAs in.

                      All you need is an external JBOD array your NAS appliance attaches to using a pair of SAS HBAs, with dual-ported SAS drives. Controller redundancy is a function of the attachment bits, not your management software. And this way your head node also do

                    • by drsmithy (35869)

                      You didn't hear of Sun Unified Storage yet? Controller redundancy is available out of the box on certain NASes, otherwise you can add it.

                      I'm well aware of Sun's offering, as I nearly bought one. They're very nice machines. However, they have about as much relevance to this discussion as an EMC Celerra, as they're a solution playing in the same ballpark as NetApp, with a pricetag to match.

                      They are most certainly _not_ a low-end OpenSolaris-based appliance, which was the comparison being made.

                      All you n

        • If Larry wanted to buy NetApp, he'd ratchet up the lawsuit rhetoric in an attempt to drive down NetApp's stock price.

      • Well... Oracle has been a big push for NetApp for a long time now. Big O's sales reps have claimed that Oracle uses NetApp exclusively internally for database systems. NetApp litigating against Oracle is definitely biting the hand that promotes you.

        It's hard to say whether this bodes well for ZFS in the open environment.

        • It's hard to say whether this bodes well for ZFS in the open environment.

          Maybe in time, but not yet. zfs is open enough that you can use it under Linux (if you want to) via fuse, but I see no immediate revival of interest on Apple's part. For a while I was sort of hoping both would come to some sort of agreement that would give me a nice common filesystem that my Mac and Linux boxes can use, but it looks like I'll have to wait.

          For now, HFS+ is OK enough for USB drives so long as I turn off journalling.
      • but since openbsd is dead and the freebsd zfs port lags (too much to really call 'current') zfs IS dead for free os's.

        I ran zfs on my freebsd8 system for about a year. at upgrade time, it was not fun and somewhat scary (version mismatched, by 1, would stop even a read-only mount!)

        just not sure zfs is worth using unless its well supported. and this means only solaris, these days.

        we need a zfs-like system that has most of the features and yet is meant from the start to run on mid-end hardware (x86/x64 but n

        • by Cato (8296)

          I agree about going for OpenSolaris but that runs fine on commodity kit if you choose the hardware correctly - even a $75 Atom CPU+motherboard plus 2GB RAM is enough for a home NAS (as long as the Atom is x64 which many are).

          Once btrfs is stable in a couple of years or so it will be fine as a ZFS replacement for Linux - however btrfs is another Oracle project so I hope they don't see it as conflicting with the more strategic ZFS.

        • by tyen (17399)

          jfs and ext3/4 fs for me, for now. maybe some md-raid if I need instant recovery from a failed disk.

          But for large-scale storage (say, 300 TB and up), how do you address the need for continuous integrity checking? I don't see anything like it under ext3/4 or any Linux/BSD OS variant that is production-grade today. Sure, btrfs has it, but it isn't production-ready for at least a couple years, if not longer.

        • the freebsd zfs port lags (too much to really call 'current')

          FreeBSD 7.3, 8.0, and 8.1 support ZFSv14, which until around last month was the same version as Solaris.

          There are patches available for FreeBSD 8-STABLE to bring it to ZFSv15, which until this week was the same version as in Solaris.

          There are patches available for FreeBSD 9-CURRENT to bring it to ZFSv28, which is ahead of the ZFS version support in the most recent Solaris release (ZFSv22). This would bring it up to parity with the last version a

      • Solaris, and by extension ZFS, runs in x86 hardware.

        Oracle's Linux was a stop gap measure, now that they own a far more capable operating system (sorry Linux guys, I love Linux, but it can't touch Solaris) I see no reason why they should waste time and money in making Linux any better....

  • "If you don't knock it off, we'll buy you too."

    [John]

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday September 10, 2010 @08:56AM (#33532760) Journal

      Oh, don't throw me into that briar patch!

      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        quote is from a movie. by disney. that disney self-bans (you cannot see that movie or rent it in the US).

        you'd have to visit some kind of bay-like location in order to really see the reference.

        it actually was a good movie and should not have been banned. sigh. disney, you suck in so many ways, these days.

        • quote is from a movie. by disney. that disney self-bans (you cannot see that movie or rent it in the US).

          "Song of the South". Disney was going to release it to home DVD in 2006 and then decided not to, then re-thought the decision, then re-thought the re-think. But you can get bootleg copies of it. Disney is probably a little nervous about the racial content, but its not any kind of inter-Disney conspiracy to not release it. They just aren't sure that the content isn't going to piss a bunch of people off, and the film isn't really that great to begin with.

        • Nope, sorry. The Disney film came out in 1946. The story that it was based upon, which also included that line, predates it by over 50 years and is in the public domain even in the USA.
  • Here's Hoping (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While that's nice for NetApp, I'm still hoping that they decide to change or dual license ZFS to be GPL compatible. Of course, I don't actually expect them to do that, but the sentence in the summary saying they have "a 'common vision' focused on providing solutions that reduce IT cost and complexity", almost made me laugh. You can say many good things about Oracle, but low cost isn't really their strong point. And if they really cared about reducing IT complexity/cost they could make sure that ZFS becomes

    • by hedwards (940851)
      Or Linux could get with the times and change to a less ridiculous license. *BSD does just fine with corporate contributions despite a lack of stick forcing the issue. And companies like Google and Asus fork things from Linux in a way which is essentially not compatible, but respects the license.

      They don't have to completly ditch GPL, but they really ought to allow for code to just be open source, rather than that virulent and spoiled we only want GPL code.
      • Frankly, at this point, I don't care whether Oracle finally releases ZFS in a Linux-compatible license. (Although they might, in order to shoehorn it into Unbreakable Linux(tm) that they use. Which I think is the biggest chance that we'll see ZFS in Linux.)

        ZFS has been around long enough now that the flaws are known. It's not the end-all be-all of file systems and storage. And some of the flaws are pretty nasty (can't shrink a zpool [opensolaris.org], which they've been "working" on a fix since 2007 [google.com] for that).

        And the
        • by drsmithy (35869)

          ZFS has been around long enough now that the flaws are known. It's not the end-all be-all of file systems and storage. And some of the flaws are pretty nasty (can't shrink a zpool, which they've been "working" on a fix since 2007 for that).

          That's not really a "significant flaw" to anyone outside of the DIY space. Shrinking arrays by removing devices is extremely uncommon to the point of nonexistence in the enterprise world (in fact, I'm not sure that anyone supports it - my IBM DS4800, EMC CX3 and NetApp

          • The only good use case I have, and I've run into this before, is shrinking ZFS in a virtualized environment. Say you expand a zpool by adding virtual scsi devices and later want to reclaim some space by removing whole scsi disks, not resizing them in any way.

            It is just a 'nice to have' feature. If you're so hard pressed for storage you absolutely have to shrink virtual guests... delete all those crap VMs you don't use any more. Otherwise, you're doing storage wrong. Gotta be pretty crazy to pick shrinki

  • Seriously, how is Oracle gonna fuck this up?

    Or has it already, with the ending of OpenSolaris? Perhaps doing that cleared the way to settle, so that any OSol fork would have to reimplement changes to ZFS in Oracle's closed "mainline"?

    Hrmph.

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Friday September 10, 2010 @09:13AM (#33532906) Homepage

    that NetApps (and everybody else) are a little more scared of their new Oracle overlords than of geeky, hunky-dory Sun?

    Prediction: Google and Oracle are going to patch things up like nothing ever happened. You heard it here.

    • by Teckla (630646) on Friday September 10, 2010 @10:10AM (#33533434)

      Prediction: Google and Oracle are going to patch things up like nothing ever happened. You heard it here.

      Of course Oracle and Google will come to an amicable settlement.

      Software patents don't hurt big companies. Big companies can either cut a big check or cross license patents with each other.

      Unfortunately, software patents hurt virtually everyone else.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        >Software patents don't hurt big companies. Big companies can either cut a big check or cross license patents with each other.

        Agree in general. Though, in this specific case, open source developers (or even closed source ISVs) writing Java software don't have anything to worry about.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      I guess that I am surpprised at how much money Oracle has.
      I do not think that the FOSS world has much to worry about from Oracle Microsoft does.
      Remember Oracles NC netcomputer push back in the 90s.
      It was Google Chrome before Google Chrome.
      There is Microsoft blood in the water and Oracle is run by a shark.
      Microsoft is in trouble in the mobile market and tablets. PCs are starting to look vulnerable as well.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        >There is Microsoft blood in the water and Oracle is run by a shark.

        Yeah, I think that too. We'll know when it happens, though.

        I continue to think Larry is partially ideologically (or personally) motivated. Look how fast he hired Mark Turd [yahoo.com].

        I'm hoping to see him continue, increase funding for, and push OpenOffice just to stick it to Microsoft. Spending merely millions of dollars can cost Microsoft billions in its Office and Windows cash cows.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          I don't know.
          Mark Hurd made a mint for HP.
          "Under his leadership, the company has been the first in the sale of desktop computers since 2007, and laptop computers since 2006. In 2008, it also increased its market share in inkjet and laser printers to 46% and 50.5%, respectively."

          He is also a blood thirsty shark.

          Maybe Sun will branch out into desktops and notebooks.
          Actually I see Sun going after HP's server market tooth and nail as well as Dell's.
           

          • Actually I see Sun going after HP's server market tooth and nail as well as Dell's.

            I agree with you that this is what Oracle needs to do, them being Sun's two biggest threats in the data center and all. It seems like such an obvious thing to say, but what the hell was Sun doing the last couple years??

            Their hardware/software integration is worse than a Dell running Linux. There is no excuse for that. Apple's desktops have had EFI for how long now? Why do Sun x86 servers still have legacy BIOS? They could have evolved the prom interface and unified both systems. GRUB booting Solaris..

  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Friday September 10, 2010 @09:15AM (#33532916)

    Oracle and NetApp have long, close ties through their customers (many, many Oracle customers run their databases on NetApp gear; it's one of the platforms Oracle specifically recommends). This lawsuit basically pitted the customers against themselves, which never works out well for the vendors.

  • I wonder if this means Oracle will ruin another decent product line by buying NetApp. This sounds more like pre-negotiation to me. Why waste money on a lawsuit when you can just buy the company.

  • Here's all the background:

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/NetApp_v._Sun_et._al._re_ZFS_(2010,_USA) [swpat.org]

    (Anyone know on problems for Btrfs? I hear others raising the question, but I haven't found anything to indicate that there's a real risk.)

  • " two companies have shared a 'common vision' focused on providing solutions that reduce IT cost and complexity."

    You have to be kidding. Oracle? Reducing cost and complexity?? I have some nice swap real estate to sell them...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      I have some nice swap real estate to sell them...

      Yeah, once they find out they can only inhabit as much as they can page in at once they're going to be pissed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      What are you talking about? Oracle is all about reducing cost. Once they've got you locked in to their ecosystem, the cost of sales and marketing alone, not to mention support, goes down considerably.
  • The common vision is usually: We want to sue every last penny out of you.
  • I wonder how much money exchanged hands for them to become "friends"....
  • Larry has always wanted to own the whole stack (viz., funding Pillar), but he doesn't seem to believe in standing in the way of realities. The majority of his company's data runs on NetApp storage. NetApp has something like an entire division focused on Oracle installations. And both Larry and Georgens are smart enough to figure out that you can make at least 100 times as much money selling product together as you can suing each other.

    -----

    You know how dumb the average guy is, right? Well, by defini
  • NetApp CEO Tom Georgens even said the two companies have shared a 'common vision' focused on providing solutions that reduce IT cost and complexity.

    cost and complexity ... two areas in which Oracle is the world class champion. Obviously, Georgens has neither purchased nor attempted to maintain an Oracle DB.

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