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IBM Opens High-Octane File System

With the popularity of Linux clusters booming, IBM has opened up the source code to its General Parallel File System (GPFS), so it can run on other vendors' hardware.

The move is the Armonk, N.Y., company's latest attempt to free up some of its technology in the name of Linux, with the idea that it will lead to greater choice and ultimately greater revenues in the future.

GPFS gives users the ability to treat physical resources, such as servers or storage arrays, as one virtual file system. GPFS can store hundreds of terabytes of data, as well as accommodate massive data files in engineering design, digital media, data mining, financial analysis and seismic data processing.

GPFS began as a file system for high-performance computing clusters on Unix servers in the early 1990s, providing users speedy file access to applications. The technology was introduced on Linux in the late 1990s, accommodating IBM's push for Linux clusters in the market.

To this point, users could run GPFS on an IBM machine with support. But if they had a mixed environment with IBM clusters running alongside Linux networks or others, they could only run GPFS on IBM hardware.

But with the proliferation of Linux on vendors' hardware platforms, IBM decided to loosen its grip on GPFS and let third-party vendors adjust the source code to make it run on non-IBM hardware platforms, said Becky Austen, director of deep computing at IBM. These clients may adapt GPFS to other platforms and share their work with other licensees.

Cluster vendor Linux Networx is the first hardware vendor under the strategy to license GPFS for its customers under an original equipment manufacturers agreement.

Salt Lake City's Linux Networx will sell, tune and support IBM's GPFS solution at customer data centers around the world within its LS Series of Linux Supersystems.

IBM has other deals in the works to encourage GPFS support on all hardware platforms, but Austen isn't saying with whom just yet.

Stay tuned.

IBM has been on a mission the last couple of years to unlock technology in the hope that it will lead to greater things down the road. Most recently, the company launched the Open Invention Network with other partners to allow Linux innovation without legal hassles.

IBM has also open sourced more than 500 software patents to let users build on its technology.