Sun picks away at NetApp's patent claims
Botched settlement results in more blogs of fury
The war-of-words between Sun Microsystems and NetApp over patent infringement claims wages on, while legal means to settle the matter have failed.
The two companies tried to sit down this week for a settlement conference, but judging by Sun's response of publicly boasting that it has removed at least one of NetApp's patents from the litigation and declaring the legal scuffle a war between ideologies — we'd say the mediation wasn't entirely a success.
In a blog post by Sun executive veep and legal chief, Mike Dillon, he describes the meeting as "rather brief" and notes the parties "weren't able to resolve the dispute."
He goes on to say the patent office has granted the first five of its requests to reexamine the validity of NetApp's patents. The court has agreed to pause until the office is done with a second dig through the patents, and Dillon claims "at least one" NetApp patent infringement claim is already off the table.
Dillon continues with a spirited open source rally cry that's extremely familiar to Sun's approach to its current legal tussle with NetApp. Neither company seems to want to talk about the lawsuit outside of their corporate blogs. But at least they're willing to fight dirty on their own digital territory.
The fight began in September 2007, when NetApp filed a lawsuit over alleged patent violations in Sun's ZFS file system. The lawsuit claimed not only is the ZFS technology lifted from several of NetApp's WAFL (Write Anywhere File Layout) patents but Sun is also giving the work away for free, open source.
Sun responded with a denial and a lawsuit of its own. In October 2007, it countersued with the claim NetApp was violating seven of its own patents, and in turn, most of NetApp's major products infringe its intellectual property. A week later, Sun sued again in a Northern California court, closer to the headquarters of both Silicon Valley companies.
Then this April, Sun sued a third time with a new batch of patents it alleged had been violated. The latest round involved NetApp's storage management software it acquired with the purchase of Onaro.. Apparently Sun comes out swinging if provoked.
Sun claims to have won this round of litigation.
According to Dillon, Sun contends NetApp has infringed a total of 22 patents used in products including NetApp's FAS6000, FAS9000, FAS3000, FAS2000, V3000, SnapMirror, SnapVault, SynchMirror, R2000 Platform, NearStore Virtual Tape Library, and others.
The companies have provided some entertainment beyond the IP claims with plenty of waspish words and propaganda directed at one another via the corporate blogs of NetApp co-founder Dave Hitz and Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz.
Sun champions itself as an open source hero, fighting for the developer community.
From Dillon's blog:
"It has become increasingly clear, that although NetApp originally claimed this case to be about Sun's alleged patent infringement (an assertion which we are confident we will prove was unfounded), the case is about something else entirely. It's really about the clash between two different business models, one proprietary, the other open."
NetApp meanwhile, thinks its property was stolen and that its reputation is being smeared by Sun using the open source banner as an excuse.
Sun said it expects to hear more from the patent office about the validity of NetApp's patents over the course of the year.
Oh good, looks like one of our favorite corporate blog soap operas was renewed for another season. ®
RE: Fatso - more of the same
Where to start, there's so much humourous material in your last post!
"ZFS doesn't use the extra resources for nothing..." I'm glad to hear it, Simon's home solution sounds pricey enough, I'd hate to think how much you'd have to spend to get a viable commercial solution.
"...it can provide the reliability similar to a EMC/NetApp box...." Ha! So ZFS all by itself provides all the hardware redunancy, mangement and provisioning features of an EMC array like a Symmetrix? Yeah, right! Sun wish they could make a piece of storage kit with that level of capability, then they wouldn't have to resort to badging everyone elses kit. You really don't have a clue as to what you're talking about.
"....Sun as a company never initiated any patent conversation with Sun...." You're still obviously very confused! Try taking a few deep breaths before next assaulting your keyboard. Actually, take a whole lot of long breaths, the rest of us won't miss you.
"...."Sun have NEVER made any such statement I have seen" - Nice try. ...how are you confident enough to proclaim your lies !!...." Nope, not a lie, just a statement of fact. I haven't seen such a quote, you were unable to provide such a quote (in fact, one of your two examples disproved your own statement), so how am I lying? It seems that whenever your blind faith cannot be backed up by any proof you resort to childish name-calling. All very entertaining but unlikley to win you any converts to the Cult Of The Sunshiners.
"....I think you are a real anti-Sun fanatic...." Yes, through bitter experience, I am anti-Sun. But you seem to have all the traits of a quasi-religeous fanatic - unquestioning belief despite obvious and continual proof to the fallacy of your beliefs. Do you think The Great God Scott is going to make you Saint Fatso if you bleat long and loud enough? How quaint.
"....Care to provide reference, keep invent lies after lies...." Try a web search for Microsoft, Sun, Open Office, or just look at:
"....you can add 32GB of flash cache at almost negligible relative cost addition and ZFS can speed up the read/write transactions by an order of magnitude..." I'm sure it can, but then using flash will speed up all disk access through the controller, regardless of whether it is using ZFS, ReiserFS, LVM or any other filesystem. This is not a feature of ZFS, it's a feature of the use of flash technology. So adding it "at negligable cost" (what, no development costs?) is a common for all filesystems. Do you want to claim that switching from single-phase power to three-phase gives savings due to ZFS too? I really hope you're the Sun bod that is drawing up the new Sun feature sale sheets, at least they'll be humourous!
"....The court says otherwise..." Actually, the court has said nothing of the type yet. Oh, sorry, I forgot, you are accepting the judgement of The Great God Scott as gospel and a higher law than the common law of the land. It will probably be a while before examination of the ZFS code and the WAFL code and associated patents are completed, probably years going by the pace of the similar SCO case. But, Sun's own engineers have admitted they designed a WAFL-like solution after looking at NetApp's WAFL, so they've kind of shot themselves in the foot to start with.
"....Ohhh, so you did seem to be finding time to actually look for what Linux is saying,...." Yes, I did. You obviously did not. Let me summarise what Linus said - there is nothing in Slowaris we need, the only bit that might be of interest is ZFS, and he'd prefer to have WAFL open-sourced than go with the already "open-sourced" ZFS. Oh, and he also said that Sun were just playing at open source to try and improve their market position, and not to trust or believe what Sun say. Care to disagree with that summary? Am I surprised NetApp don't want to open-source WAFL - not really, there is no reason for any company to release proprietary code unless they want to. You may remember that Sun hadn't released Slowaris as "open source" (faux Sun style, not GPL) until their business was going down the toilet. It was never even mentioned as a possibility when Sun was riding the dotcom wave. Pot, meet Mr Kettle. Advice to Mr Kettle - if you shake hands with Pot, count your fingers afterwards just to make sure they're all still there!
"....you must be a religious follower of the pledge - nobody gets fired for buying IBM...." Actually, whilst we have a range of vendors' kit, we are predominantly an HP shop. The big clue (to anyone with technical knowledge) would have been that of all the kit I listed, none were IBM products....
Re: Matt Bryant
ZFS doesn't use the extra resources for nothing, because it provides end-to-end data integrity, so it can provide the reliability similar to a EMC/NetApp box using all standard components at a fraction of the cost. Since you don't understand ZFS at all, let alone how file-systems work, you should have already known that performance on a single disk is not ZFS's focal point, the bigger the number of disks, the scaling and reliability of ZFS shines.
I meant NetApp approached StorageTek to buy StorageTek patents, but you very well knew what I meant. So try another route. The facts are clear, when NetApp couldn't get access to StorageTek patents, they sued Sun in the pretext of ZFS, hoping Sun would simply hand over the StorageTek patents for free. Sun as a company never initiated any patent conversation with Sun.
"Sun have NEVER made any such statement I have seen" - Nice try. That's the reason I said ignorance reins supreme in you. If you didn't see something, how are you confident enough to proclaim your lies !!
I think you are a real anti-Sun fanatic. Did you actually see what those 1600 patents are - before claiming they are related to solaris x86 code ? No, most of them are related to fundamentals in computing. And Sun did make the statement that they made them available to any open source code. At least these patents are way more valuable than IBM's patent publicity stunts that even included patents related to screwdrivers!! Again, the fact is that Sun has never sued any open source product, NetApp did. So keep your conspiracy theories to yourself until you show evidence as of today.
"but happily signed up to allow M$ to sue open source users of the Open Office code in future?" - Oh... sure you seem to have been the third party verifier for that agreement. Care to provide reference, keep invent lies after lies.
"using high-speed memory as cache in front of disk arrays has been around for years, long before ZFS was even created" - I think someone should really ask you not to try to crack something that's beyond your area of expertise. A flash is not a high speed memory like RAM, and secondly it's persistent memory, unlike RAM. There is a different functionality and economics involved because you can add 32GB of flash cache at almost negligible relative cost addition and ZFS can speed up the read/write transactions by an order of magnitude. It's not something Sun had to invent, the fact is that the architecture in ZFS allows this speedup with no changes in it's architecture. BTW, can you care to do some research and provide reference here who is trying to use SSD as disk cache, try hiding behind those kind of pretexts. It's one thing putting SSD in place of disks and another thing to have an architecture in place that can use SSD where it really shines.
"NetApp see a company copying the core code from their product, then open-sourcing it, and then that same company tries to rip them off with a dodgy patent mugging, and you suggest they just ignore it?" - as I said earlier, the real reason NetApp sued is to get free access to StorageTek patents. And what core code ? The court says otherwise. The patent office is not sure the so called 'core code' has plenty of prior art, and now those patents are on their way to oblivion.
Ohhh, so you did seem to be finding time to actually look for what Linux is saying, and oh my !! He seems to find ZFS interesting enough for Linux - doesn't that contradict what you have been saying so far. I am sure he made that statement before the Sun/NetApp lawsuit, because if he knew, he wouldn't have made that statement. A company like NetApp would only open source code relevant to their products, not their proprietary WAFL code, because Dave Hitz has now declared in court that doing so would jeopardize their existence because it would allow smaller vendors to offer the same features at much cheaper entry point. So now you feel the frustration Linus has ? He can't get ZFS, and WAFL is a far far cry.
Your quite large commercial enterprise must be happy with you for saving them money I am sure - you must be a religious follower of the pledge - nobody gets fired for buying IBM. The companies I mostly work are not so rich they don't even have money to buy NetApp or EMC or Hitachi.
RE: Matt Bryant - Ignorance is SUPREME
Try again, ZFS does not need much more resources than a standard x86 box, it just needs tiny bit more memory, so your hypothesis that you can't run zfs in ANY x86 box is blatant lie - it's called distortion of facts. But why am I complaining, because nothing else is expected from someone who never tried it and yet claims to possess all knowledge about it. But again, ignorance is bliss.
No, Sun didn't kick off the litigation, they were only continuing the patent discussions that were already ongoing between Storagetek and Sun. The fact is that NetApp had approached NetApp with interest in purchasing some of Storagetek's patents, and storagetek wan't ready to sell them. Once NetApp saw Sun buying storagetek, they saw this as an opportunity to not pay for the patents that they were in discussion with the old company and instead go to courtroom.
"Sun have NEVER made any such statement " - again since you are supremely ignorant, only GOD can help. But hey, why don't you quote your sources when claiming some of your blatant and distorted proclamations!
Sun has never filed a lawsuit against anything open source irrespective of license - that is the fact today, so keep your speculation and ramblings to yourself until you can prove (not state) otherwise.
No, NetApp should not be worried about Sun and ZFS, they need to be worried about the smaller vendors building ultra-cheap AND RELIABLE storage boxes, and SSD provides that opening where these boxes can have majority of the advantages WAFL provides. Yes, SSD isn't cheap, but ZFS's planned usage of SSD (or rather flash storage) is not as primary storage, but as an additional level of cache, very similar to how NVRAM is used by NetApp. So it's still very very cheap and lifts performance an order of magnitude. Not every application needs the expensive storage arrays from NetApp, EMC where you have to pay huge premiums for every additional TB you use - but hey !! these are not my words, that's Dave Hitz declaring in court - or you can claim he may be just joking...
But you are quite happy in your own little world of Itanic,HP-UX,EVA.... be happy. There is a big world of new Web 2.0 crowd unfolding before your eyes, and these companies don't need EMC, NetApp for their core business, cheap reliable storage is all they need. That is were ZFS shines, but you wouldn't pretend to understand that anyway...
So yeah, you keep hoping Sun would disappear one day, HOPE is what keeps us afloat.