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Nexenta CEO: It doesn't matter what Oracle does with ZFS

Oracle laid out its strategy for Sun’s product lines last week, following the approval of the $7.4 billion deal by European regulators. It was met with dismay in some corners of the IT world, including some Sun channel partners, after Oracle revealed it intends to sell directly to Sun’s top 4000 customers.

But it also put to rest lingering questions about Oracle’s intentions for Sun’s hardware products, particularly in storage. So far, Oracle has pledged to continue Sun’s storage product lines, but it’s early yet. We caught up today with Evan Powell, the CEO of Nexenta Systems, a storage vendor building clustered NAS products based on ZFS to see what he thought of Oracle’s plans.

Storage Soup: How do you see the strategy playing out, or impacting your customers?

Powell: From Nexenta’s perspective we think that the general storage aduience may be missing the point which is community community community. and the ZFS community as we’ve been saying for when there was more uncertainty about Oracle’s plans over the last several months, the ZFS community is extremely vibrant. There are hundreds of thousands of users if not more. The horse has left the barn a long time ago on ZFS in the sense that the vibrancy of the community, the class, scale and number of users, is already equal to that of any proprietary commercialized closed legacy file system. So it’s great that Oracle is continuing to invest in ZFS and that they decided to bring out new products, the the ZFS Storage Appliance and so forth. But for us, that’s sort of the icing on the cake. The cake is community community community and we know firsthand having more deployments on ZFS than any other company including Sun that the community is very vibrant.

Storage Soup: So do you see that being any kind of issue with Oracle, or a cultural depature for them?

Powell: In terms of their support for the community? I don’t know is the real answer. What will happen, what Oracle will do…they’re saying all the right things, which is great, but again…at some level, it’s like Java. There’s no end of users. It’s going to be okay. Same with ZFS. There’s no end of users, fully open sourced, it’s going to be okay…irrespective of what Oracle decides to do.

What I saw from their announcements is that they’re going to do the right things, instead of continuing to support the community, and they’re getting on board more clearly in their branding, calling their product the ZFS Storage Appliance. But again if you look at the folks maybe in enterprise software that could’ve been the first question they asked– ‘How big is the user base? Okay, it’s fine.’ In the storage world, the notion of real open solution is a little bit still orthoganal to people’s thinking.

Storage Soup: With any kind of announcement like this you’re going to find contrarians and skeptics, and there were some people who expressed skepticism that what was laid out at Oracle’s strategy webcast is exactly what was going to happen or the long term plan. Is that overthinking things?

Powell: Larry Ellison is a proven and brilliant leader. I don’t exactly know what he’s going to do, but everything he’s saying is very positive. But it’s not that important specifically what Oracle does or doesn’t do with ZFS.

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