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Sun CEO says NetApp aims to blunt open-source efforts

Schwartz also disputes lawsuit charge that Sun demanded license for WAFL technology

By Brian Fonseca
September 6, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Jonathan Schwartz on Thursday used his blog to dispute Network Appliance Inc.'s charge  that Sun's ZFS file system technology infringes on seven NetApp patents.

NetApp made the charges in a lawsuit filed yesterday in a Texas federal court.

In his blog, Schwartz also challenged NetApp's contention that Sun had sought licensing fees for the storage firm's use of WAFL (Write Anywhere File Layout) or other technologies. Instead, he said that NetApp contacted Storage Technology Corp. before Sun acquired it in 2005 through a third-party "intermediary" seeking to discuss acquiring undisclosed patents on storage technology. He did not elaborate on the state or details of those talks in the blog.

Following the acquisition, Schwartz said Sun decided not to sell the patents, but would provide the technologies sought by NetApp under licensing agreements. He noted that NetApp was not interested in licensing the technology.

"Instead of engaging in licensing discussions, NetApp decided to file a suit to invalidate them," Schwartz wrote in his blog. "To be clear, we never filed a complaint or threatened to do so, nor did anyone, to the best of my knowledge, in the ZFS community." 

In a statement, Sun said that the lawsuit is proof that NetApp views the open-source ZFS technology as a competitive threat. The company also said the lawsuit is a "direct attack on the open-source community."

Analysts have said that the lawsuit could become a test case for open-source software.

Said Schwartz in his blog: "The rise of the open-source community cannot be stifled by proprietary vendors. I guess not everyone's learned that lesson."



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