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How LinuxDisk will put a bomb under storage fatcats

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Linux advocates who think corporates have stolen their revolution ought to have reason to cheer up this week. For a humble free software device driver still has the power to change the world, we'll discover at LinuxWorld in New York this week.

Tomorrow file system provocateur Peter Braam will be on hand to talk about a number of projects, and there's a good chance you haven't heard of what's potentially the most revolutionary: LinuxDisk.

What LinuxDisk provides is a bridge between cheap disks and the rest of the network, and in particular logical volume manager support. For the first time vanilla Linux systems will become storage controllers: at the heart of LinuxDisk is a driver that looks to the world like SCSI in target mode. So while the rest of world sees a SCSI or Fibre Channel array, the boxen are simply running cheap IDE disks. The LVM provides virtualised file system.

Why is this revolutionary? Well as we've pointed out many times before, the proprietary storage behemoths exemplified by EMC are really selling boxes of disks: and disks are very, very cheap. Sure, people are also buying a service, but the technology deficit here is negligible, while the price markup is enormous. And that's a natural challenge for a Penguin.

As Braam points out, several LinuxDisk boxen (or racks to be more precise) will be able to provide the equivalent of a low-end SAN such as IBM's Shark, at a fraction of the cost. The latter start at $75,000. Thanks to other projects, some including Braam's work, Linux has been touted as a natural for the low-end Network Attached Storage (NAS) business, where it's already found a home. But LinuxDisk takes the economics of the storage area network (SAN) business head-on. Braam envisages LinuxDisk boxen (well, racks) running alongside Linux servers in large rackmount configurations.

The first LinuxDisk code was posted on SourceForge in October, and the code should be shippable towards the end of this year. Assuming the good people of the T.13 committee can quarantine the CPRM sickness to removable media, that is...

A LinuxDisk white paper can be downloaded from the website of Mountain View Data, the company Braam started with TurboLinux founder Cliff Miller last Fall. ®

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