NetApp v Sun: Get Ready to Rumble

The patent clash over ZFS is gathering momentum

September 7, 2007

2 Min Read
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Sun's response to a major patent lawsuit from Network Appliance heralds one heck of an upcoming battle.

In a public statement and via CEO Jonathan Schwartz's blog today, Sun made it clear it's ready to fight NetApp's allegations of violating IP in the ZFS code for Solaris.

Schwartz's (and Sun's) position is that NetApp is "trolling for patents," and he says NetApp needs to learn "about the futility of litigation as a mechanism for proprietary companies to stifle the rise of open source competition."

The Sun CEO claims Sun never approached NetApp about licensing its patents, as NetApp execs claimed during a press conference yesterday. Instead, he says NetApp tried to buy some patents from Sun after Sun acquired StorageTek, but Sun refused to sell them. "We've always been willing to license them," Schwartz writes.

Schwartz adds fuel to the fire by openly inviting folk to go on Sun's site and try out ZFS and the Thumper platform on which it resides. "I'd like to thank our friends at NetApp for ensuring every single customer in their installed base is aware of the outstanding economics offered by ZFS as a file system and storage virtualization platform."It hardly sounds as if he's ready to stop peddling ZFS either in Sun products or open-source software -- both issues NetApp hopes to force through legal injunction.

The battle lines are drawn, and there seems little chance of a pre-court settlement. Of course, it can only be hoped that customers and distributors won't be affected. NetApp execs say they won't. We also have inquiries out to Apple and Cluster File Systems, both of which deploy ZFS in their products, to get clarification on their expectations, if they're willing to give it.

In the meantime, we'll be tracking the situation. And if you like, weigh in yourself via our latest poll.

  • Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)

  • Cluster File Systems Inc. (CFS)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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