Red Hat releases Sistina software under GPL

Five months after completing its US$31 million acquisition of Sistina Software Inc., Red Hat Inc. released the source code for all of Sistina's proprietary software on Thursday, including its Global File System, under an open source license.

In addition to the Global File System, or GFS, Red Hat released the source code to Sistina's distributed lock manager and membership services software. Red Hat is also developing a clustered version of Sistina's logical volume manager, which will be released early in 2005, said Matt O'Keefe, Red Hat's director of storage services.

The Global File System can be used to give as many as three hundred Linux servers access to data stored on a storage area network (SAN) and has been used for e-mail, Web and file-serving, and with Oracle 9i RAC (Real Application Clusters) applications, O'Keefe said.

Originally designed as open source software by researchers at the University of Minnesota, including O'Keefe, GFS became a proprietary product in 2001, after the research team left the university to form Sistina.

Developers continued to work on an open source version of GFS, called the OpenGFS project, and Red Hat would now like to merge the two projects, O'Keefe said.

OpenGFS developers will be meeting with Red Hat engineers in Minneapolis the week of July 25 to work out a plan for integrating GFS and OpenGFS, O'Keefe said. "We enthusiastically want to make this a community project," he said.

Red Hat has been selling the GFS software for $2,200 per server since the Sistina acquisition was completed.

The software is similar to an open source file system released by Oracle Corp. in 2002, called the Oracle Cluster File System. However, the Oracle product, which Red Hat began distributing in 2002, is designed only for use with Oracle's databases, O'Keefe said. "GFS is a general purpose file system," he said.

But because Oracle already has a product in this space, Red Hat may have a hard time convincing Oracle users to deploy GFS instead of Oracle's file system, said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst with research firm IDC.

"It's going to be a very challenging place to compete," he said. "If I was on an Oracle environment, why would I bring in something else?"

Kusnetzky said he was not surprised by Red Hat's open source release of GFS, which had been promised since Red Hat completed the Sistina acquisition. It released the software under the popular GNU General Public License (GPL).

"This is expected," he said. "This is Red Hat's approach. They seem to insist on GPL software."

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