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Forget R&D, Sun buys its Lustre now

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Like some sort of file managing addict, Sun Microsystems has acquired yet another high-end file system. The server maker today revealed that it will buy most of Cluster File Systems' intellectual property and business assets, including the Lustre File System.

The acquisition, due to close this year, gives Sun a fairly popular parallel (cluster) file system that helps manage data across thousands of servers and vast amounts of storage. Cluster File Systems has worked as the commercial backer behind the open source Lustre effort and provides support for the software. Meanwhile, companies such as HP with its Scalable File Share have done their own work around Lustre.

This type of file system software is typically used by high performance computing customers. In the case of Lustre, you'll most often find it at government-funded research labs.

Companies such as IBM and SGI make their own parallel file systems, while Panasas is perhaps the best known start-up with such software.

In all cases, the technology helps provide parallel access, rather than serial, to data, which improves the communications between servers and storage systems. Customers with large clusters, like the folks at government labs, need this kind of performance boost.

Sun plans to showcase Lustre as part of its x86-based supercomputing line.

In so doing, Sun will continue to improve Lustre for the Linux operating system, while also working to bring it over Solaris. In addition, Sun plans to combine Lustre servers with its homegrown ZFS file system.

Dial back to 2001, and you'd find Sun acquiring file system maker LSC for $74m. Sun bought the company for its Archive Manager-File System (SAM-FS) and Quick File System (QFS) and tried to develop the software over the past few years with limited success. Last we heard, the old LSC crew had actually left Sun and gone to work at Panasas.

Sun's Lustre buy also draws interest because of the company's legal spat with Network Appliance over file system technology. NetApp has fingered ZFS as an issue.

As it turns out, ZFS will be one component of a top-secret project that Sun plans to rollout early next year called FiShWoRkS, which is some sort of NetApp, Cisco, HP, IBM, Dell, EMC, Insert Vendor Here killer. Or at least that's what we gathered from the gin and tonic-soaked talk of the engineers behind the project.

We think fIShwOrks will allow administrators to reconfigure x86 systems sort of on-the-fly. So, you could create a NAS system or a security appliance with a couple clicks of a button. In addition, the FishworKS boxes should have sophisticated performance monitoring tools that stem from Sun's DTrace work.

Overall, Sun is looking to reduce the cost of specialized gear sold by the likes of NetApp and Cisco, and you can see why these vendors might be upset about this.

The purchase of Lustre won't help matters, since Lustre-based systems have the potential to go after NetApp's most lucrative accounts. Er, that is if Sun can actually do anything with the technology rather than letting it languish like most of its systems management software buys. See you in Minnesota? ®

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