Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro specializing in cloud computing, virtualization, and networking, all with an open source view

NetApp Suing Sun over ZFS

I was on the road most of the day today, so I must have missed this news earlier. Apparently, Sun Microsystems and Network Appliance have had a little spat over ZFS and WAFL, and now NetApp is suing Sun for patent infringement.

Dave Hitz explained the situation in a blog entry:

This morning, NetApp filed an IP (intellectual property) lawsuit against Sun. It has two parts. The first is a “declaratory judgment”, asking the court to decide whether we infringe a set of patents that Sun claims we do. The second says that Sun infringes several of our patents with its ZFS technology.

Dave Hitz goes on to attempt to differentiate NetApp’s actions from the IP lawsuit(s) of SCO infamy. Personally, I wouldn’t place NetApp and SCO in the same situation, although I am strongly opposed to the current system of software patents. Patent reform is desperately needed, before things get worse than they already are.

In any case, this turn of events is unfortunate. I’m not technical enough to be able to provide any sort of opinion with regards to whether or not ZFS actually does infringe upon NetApp’s WAFL patents (or the other way around), but I do hope that Sun and NetApp can settle things amicably and move forward with more innovation, rather than getting stuck in an argument over who owns what. That’s the last thing either company needs right now. In addition, ZFS’ status needs to be settled quickly, before more companies decide to try to adopt a supposedly open sourced file system and incorporate it into their own products (as Apple reportedly did with ZFS and Leopard).

For more information on the lawsuit, see this eWeek article or this report from The Register. I’d also be interested in hearing anyone else’s feedback on the situation. What’s your take?

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