NetApp threatens Coraid over sales of open-source ZFS technology

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Storage startup Coraid may face legal action from NetApp if the company does not cease plans to sell the Coraid EtherDrive Z-Series NAS appliance based on the open-source Zettabyte File System (ZFS).

Coraid issued a letter to its customers this morning in which CEO Kevin Brown announced the company has temporarily suspended the general availability of the EtherDrive Z-Series.

The decision comes after Coraid received a legal letter from an attorney representing NetApp.

Brown wrote: “We made the decision to suspend shipment after receiving a legal threat letter from NetApp Inc., suggesting that the open-source ZFS file system planned for inclusion with our EtherDrive Z-Series infringes NetApp patents.”

Coraid launched the Z-Series in May as a complement to its ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE)-based EtherDrive SAN platform. The Z-Series NAS appliances – which have yet to ship – are said to unify the management of file-based data, along with underlying Ethernet SAN resources, from a single management interface by attaching to Coraid’s SRX-Series Ethernet SAN arrays, supporting SATA, SAS, and solid-state disk (SSD) drives, and a “scale-out” architecture.

This is not NetApp’s first round of legal wrangling over ZFS. Far from it. NetApp filed suit to stop Sun Microsystems from distributing and commercializing the ZFS software back in 2007. Oracle has since acquired Sun and, according to sources, the two are still embroiled in settlement talks.

Oracle is maintaining an online library of documents related to the case, including the related patents and court papers. However, the site has not been updated in more than six months.

NetApp could not be reached for comment at press time.

According to Brown, Coraid will suspend the availability of the Z-Series while it tracks settlement talks between NetApp and Oracle.

Coraid will continue selling its core Ethernet SAN platform and hopes to reinstate the Z-Series in the coming months.

If successful, NetApp could throw a very large wrench in Coraid’s NAS plans. Coraid had been selling Linux-based NAS systems for four years (roughly 12% of the company’s 1,100 customers are running the Linux NAS head), prior to the debut of the Z-Series.

Carl Wright, executive vice president of sales and product management at Coraid, recently told InfoStor that Coraid expects NAS sales to account for about 40% of its total revenue going forward. The company is betting on ZFS as the technology that will help the company reach its goal.

Kevin Komiega
Kevin Komiega
Kevin Komiega is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor.

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