Sun and NetApp Lock Horns and Head for Court

Posted on September 6, 2007

I’m was greatly saddened to read this: NetApp Sues Sun for ZFS Patent Infringement. I’ve been a big consumer of NetApp and Sun equipment for years. Readers of this blog have read numberous articles discussing the use of iSCSI and ZFS on NetApp in a Solaris environment.

On a business level, I get the reality of this. Sun’s lawers foolishly walked into a bear cave and the bear woke up. -1 to Sun’s lawers. They have no real recourse except to protect themselves and return the favor. If Dave’s account is truthful, and I don’t doubt that it is, this is all Sun Legal’s fault. If I were a NetApp investor (I’m not) I would expect the business to respond and if possible turn it in NetApp’s favor.

On a personal level, I’m bummed. NetApp wouldn’t be what it is without NFS. I’ve long said that “NetApp is what it is because it beat Sun at its own game.” For those of us who are passionate in the Sun storage community the shame of watching a competitor consistently kick Sun’s ass with its own creation has been frustrating and embarrassing to some degree. Nevertheless, it can not be ignored that NetApp and the WAFL file system have considerably advanced the craft and set the standard for storage in the industry. I feel the pain of both sides, but protecting patents such as the COW are somewhat absurd. Yes, NetApp has a legal card to play and they are putting it on the table and, to my knowledge, they haven’t tried to play that card so far, but its still lame. Poor form on both sides… but I admit, if I were to choose a side that I think has more merit it wouldn’t be Sun… and I’m really saddened to say that.

Here’s my question…. where does Jonathan fit into the picture and what can he do? Jonathan and Dave are both very reasonable and intelligent men, I wonder what could be accomplished by providing them with a table, 2 pints, and about 2 hours. Its moved beyond that already it would appear, but I hate to see the courts come into this. And, beyond that, Sun’s legal team wouldn’t go after such a large corp as NetApp without the consent of the CEO right? I know that Sun has been careful all along to stear clear of NetApp patents, but regardless, would the money from the patents be worth more than the hit Sun will inflict from its potentially weaker position in the matter?

What will happen, what will happen…. who knows. I hope it goes well. The industry needs head-to-head battle between Sun and NetApp with victory decided in the market, not the courtroom. EMC, Hitatchi, IBM… these guys aren’t bringing innovation to the market like Sun and NetApp have been. And so I’m praying for a Win-Win scenario to play out. I’m not sure what that is, they are competitors, but I don’t see good coming out of the legal struggle for either party.

Dave and Jonathan, Good luck to you both.