Storage Vendors Turn to Linux for Quick Fix

Posted on January 22, 2001

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BY HEIDI BIGGAR

As evidence of the growing appeal of Linux in non-server-specific markets, San Francisco-based Linuxcare, a provider of professional services and solutions for Linux and other open-source technologies, last month announced strategic partnerships with storage vendors Hewlett-Packard, Maxtor, Network Appliance, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Tricord Systems.

"Linux is being used quite a bit in the storage industry, but a lot of it is being done under the covers," says Dave Sifry, co-founder and chief technology officer at Linuxcare.

Sifry says Linuxcare has seen a significant up-tick in business from storage vendors over the last two quarters, including vendors porting storage area network (SAN) products to Linux and, particularly, network-attached storage (NAS) manufacturers building devices using the Linux platform.

Linuxcare is trying to attach itself to two underlying trends in the storage industry: storage for Linux environments, and Linux as a platform for storage management applications, says John Webster, a senior analyst with Illuminata, a research and consulting firm in Nashua, NH.

Though the SAN market represents a potentially huge market opportunity for Linux, developers are looking intently at the NAS space. "NAS manufacturers are latching onto Linux in a very large way," says Sifry.

Given the choices--Windows NT, non-Linux Unix variants, or rolling your own--that's not surprising, says Webster. Admittedly not as feature-rich as other operating systems, Linux offers customized control of an open-source technology, reliability, and low cost.

"It doesn't have a beautiful desktop, but it's more reliable, flexible, and much cheaper than other embedded operating systems, which incur licensing fees," explains Sifry. "Linux is open source, which means you can tailor the application and the operating system to very specific purposes."

For example, Linuxcare has worked with Maxtor to help them develop a NAS device; Hewlett-Packard to help build a NAS device; Network Appliance to improve compatibility with Windows NT/2000; Silicon Graphics to port its XFS journal file system to Linux; Sun Microsystems to port StorEdge T3 drivers to Linux; and Tricord Systems, which wanted to base a set of file systems for its Lunar Flare NAS devices on Linux.


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