Oracle burnishes its Lustre

While a number of small companies have been ramping up support for a file system called Lustre that Oracle acquired in its Sun Microsystems purchase earlier this year, Oracle itself has no plans to abandon the technology, a company executive told the IDG News Service in an interview.

"Oracle is unwavering in our commitment to the Lustre technology, to the Lustre community and to the broader supercomputer community in general," said Jason Schaffer, Oracle senior director of product management for storage. "Through the Oracle acquisition, there has been plenty of opportunity for our competitors to say things that are being a little presumptuous, if not overly presumptuous, in [terms of what] Oracle will develop or not develop," he added.

Schaffer's reassurances come after an extended quiet period about the technology from the company, one that made some Lustre users nervous and other Lustre vendors rush to supply their own marketing messages. Brent Gorda, CEO of Whamcloud, a San Francisco-based, venture capital-funded company started this year to service Lustre implementations, noted in October that, within the Lustre community, there is a "perception that Oracle is backing away from [high performance computing] and open Linux," he said.

Lustre is what is widely known as a massively parallel file system, meaning that it can be used for storing vast arrays of data across multiple nodes. The technology is used across a large percentage of the world's fastest supercomputers. For instance, 61 of the top 100 systems in the most recent Top500 list of the world's most powerful computers use the file system, including China's top-placed Tianhe-1A system. Advocates note that it could also be used in cloud computing as well.

In April, Oracle Lustre engineer Peter Bojanic gave a presentation about the future of Lustre to a user group, noting that while Oracle would continue to offer hardware storage packages running Lustre, it had no plans to sell a standalone version of the software. The company has since remained largely quiet about the progress of the software, though in August it quietly released version 2.0 of the file system.

This silence has unnerved some Lustre users, seeing how Oracle used silence to signal its lack of interest with OpenSolaris, a community-developed version of Sun's Solaris open system. Not helping matters is the fact that Oracle has lost a number of key Lustre engineers in the past year. One was Bojanic, who joined Xyratex, a Lustre-focused storage software vendor started by Lustre creator Peter Braam.

Despite these warning signs, Oracle remains committed to Lustre, Schaffer said. Oracle plans to continue to maintain "the canonical branch" of the software, and make it available. "We have no plans to deviate from that role and we also do not have plans to create a private branch of the code," he said.

Schaffer noted that the company is working to integrate Lustre with another Sun file system, the 128-bit ZFS (Zettabyte File System), so that Lustre can be used with ZFS on the company's storage devices. It does plan to roll these changes back into the canonical, or open-source, version of the software, he notes.

Another positive sign is that Oracle set up a booth at the Supercomputer 2010 show, held last month in New Orleans. Other companies at the event demonstrated their continued interest in Lustre as well. Hewlett-Packard showed off its Unified Cluster Portfolio, a collection of pre-integrated hardware, software and services that can run Lustre. DataDirect Networks provides HP with the support for Lustre, said Alanna Dwyer, HP clusters marketing manager.

Dell also offers Lustre on a number of its storage systems, said Donnie Bell, Dell senior manager of product marketing, at the show. Dell works through software provider Terascala to offer this capability. "Lustre is pretty complicated stuff. Terascala helped us bring parallel file systems to those who have never been able to touch it before," Bell said.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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