Despite reassurances from Oracle, advocates of yet another ex-Sun Microsystems technology are voicing concern about the future of their software. In this latest case, the technology is Lustre, a file system widely used across the supercomputing community.
"Lustre is in a bit of a flux at the moment. The community feels a little bit that Oracle is turning its back to them, and there is discussion going on over whether or not Oracle is forking the code," said Brent Gorda, CEO of Whamcloud, a San Francisco-based, venture capital-funded company recently started to service the potential market of HPC (high-performance computing), Linux-based Lustre users.
While Oracle has pledged to continue to develop the software, it has no plans to sell commercially supported versions of the software beyond version 1.8.3, the last released by Sun, except as part of integrated packages of Oracle hardware and software.
With Oracle potentially scaling back its plans to offer Lustre as widely as possible, the file system joins a number of other Sun technologies whose futures appear altered or cloudy since Oracle acquired Sun in January, such as OpenOffice (now renamed LibreOffice), OpenSolaris, OpenSSO, and others.
The last public announcement the company made about its plans for the technology was at the Lustre User Group 2010 meeting in Monterey Bay, California, last April, according to Gorda. He said that Oracle has not made any announcements about Lustre since the meeting. "In the community, we're left wondering and assuming bad things," he said. Oracle declined to be interviewed for this article.
At that meeting, Oracle engineer Peter Bojanic gave the audience an overview of Oracle's plans for the technology.
In short, he explained that Oracle will continue to sell a commercially supported version of the current edition of the software, version 1.8, but has no plans to sell a standalone, software-only version of the next release, version 2.0. It will, however, continue to shepherd the development of the software and use it as part of integrated hardware/software offerings. Oracle released version 2.0 in August.
Much like IBM offers its own parallel file system, GPFS (General Parallel File System), for its high-performance computing systems, Oracle will maintain Lustre primarily for its own systems, Gorda said. Whamcloud sees its niche in supporting Linux-based Lustre deployments that run on commodity x86 servers.
"Because of the perception that Oracle is backing away from HPC and open Linux, there is a hole there, and we started Whamcloud to service that area," Gorda 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, by using a central index of where all the data is kept. The technology is used across a large percentage of the world's fastest supercomputers.
Beyond supercomputing, Gorda sees Lustre as a good fit for the emerging field of cloud computing. "Lustre has already proved itself to run at speeds that are incredibly demanding. I think of it as a superset of what cloud computing and data analytics needs," he said.