Bill Roth, Ulitzer Editor-at-Large

Bill Roth

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Today we have announced our membership in the Open Innovation Network; you can read the official announcement here.  In this post I’d like to explain why we did so in a little more detail.

1. Increasing impact of OpenStorage and NexentaStor means predators may get annoyed

In 2011 our partners will sell at least $400 million in systems that include NexentaStor as the storage intelligence.  At legacy storage provider prices this would be well over $1 billion.  We expect to be harassed in the future by legacy storage providers as they see our partners beating them in an increasing number of deals.

While we are now large enough to afford the world’s top IP litigators, as you can see below we believe OIN can help protect OpenStorage and Nexenta.

2. The importance of Unix and other IP means the OIN defense is solid

In storage software, most solutions can be traced back to Unix; most if not all legacy storage providers utilize somewhere in their applications essentially a fork of Unix.  OIN owns or has licenses on quite a bit of Unix - which is why OIN is so useful as a protector of Linux.   This announcement means that Nexenta now has access to hundreds of licenses of Unix related patents for defensive purposes.  If we do get sued we can now respond by enforcing hundreds of relevant patents on whomever sues us.

Incidentally, as many commentators have noticed, ownership of certain of the 882 Novell patents was recently purchased by a consortium that includes EMC and others for $450 million dollars; you can read the Register’s somewhat alarmist article on the subject here.  The good news is that this purchase does *not* eliminate the license that covers OIN licensees; read Groklaw on the subject here.

3. We’re already committed to openness so OIN is a natural for Nexenta

Our mission is “enterprise class storage for everyone” and our record-setting growth is proof of the power of open source to accelerate innovation and to eliminate vendor lock-in.  We’re very happy for OIN licensees to have access to our relevant patents as we continue to file them.  And I’m hopeful that joining OIN will be seen as a more natural step for other storage innovators in the future.  I would note that a very slim handful of storage companies are fellow licensees, as well as Google, Mozilla, Oracle and many others in addition to the founding members IBM, RedHat, Novel, Sony, Philips and NEC.

In conclusion, Nexenta joining OIN is a defensive move that reflects the growing importance of OpenStorage.  I would note that legacy storage vendors each have relatively few patents, perhaps as many as 500-1000 per vendor, as compared to the hundreds of thousands from the founding members of OIN alone.  Given those odds I would not be surprised if one or more of them join OIN as well in the future.  I certainly hope so - there are many excellent legacy storage companies that could be competitive even without the vendor lock-in and legal shenanigans that bedevil the industry today.

One final note - thank you to OIN!  It is rare in business that you encounter such a powerful force for good.

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Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.