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HP donates legacy Unix file system code to Linux

HP has open-sourced its Advanced File System (AdvFS) code, which may broaden Linux adoption and narrow the functionality gap between Unix and Linux.

Hewlett Packard Co. has donated its Tru64 Unix Advanced File System (AdvFS) source code to the open source community to simplify administration of large Linux file systems and improve performance and scalability. AdvFS will also enable administrators to perform online backups while in operation and will increase system availability. The code has been donated under General Public License, or GPL, version 2.

HP's code contribution to the open source community represents an effort to help broaden Linux adoption as well. But data centers won't see the benefits of the AdvFS code for years to come. Although some code may be incorporated into ext4, which is now in development, the real change is expected to arrive only in the subsequent version, which won't even begin testing for several years, said Bdale Garbee, HP's CTO for Linux. But AdvFS will be included as a test preview in the next major releases for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, he said.

Created by HP subsidiary Digital Equipment Corp., the AdvFS code has been used widely in Unix systems for 16 years. It will automate and integrate Linux operations, with fewer steps required to execute commands. A file system, for example, can be resized with a single keystroke instead of a series of commands and without having to go offline. In addition, AdvFS includes a new snapshot feature that captures the current state of a file system -- again while remaining online. AdvFS also has a simplified file system and storage management structure, plus the performance management tools and system availability required to support enterprise-sized systems, Garbee said.

The Linux community has only recently expressed interest in a more advanced file system, apparently because of Linux's increasing use with mission-critical applications, Garbee said. Since mission-critical file systems are complex and require a long maturity cycle for testing and performance verification, HP wanted to get the code to developers with sufficient lead time, he added.

"This is the first time there is a good fit between the technology and what the community was looking for," Garbee said. "A couple of years ago, the community just wasn't ready for this."

Doug Small, HP's director of global alliance marketing, said HP's donation of this Unix code will help drive Linux adoption and, in turn, benefit HP as the Linux market expands. According to a survey by Framingham, Mass.-based IDC , HP is the top shipper of Linux-installed servers, with 35% of the global market.

"This file system enables online system backups without requiring administrators to take them down, which will improve availability," Small said. "And it will help open source operating systems to scale more aggressively."

Analysts debate impact
According to Matt Lawton, the director of open source software business strategies at IDC, the AdvFS code donation should narrow the functionality gap between Linux and proprietary Unix operating systems and could result in greater Linux adoption in enterprise systems. Further, the code donation is a way for HP to boost its involvement in the open source development community and could benefit HP directly if it leads to greater AdvFS adoption.

But Gordon Haff, principal IT adviser for Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc., said any impact of the AdvFS code is five to 10 years away, and speculative at best.

"Having the source code for a production-grade, next-generation file system that people can look at could be helpful," he said. "But this isn't something that will be a major impact and it's not long term either."

If Linux goes to production with a next-generation file system with AdvFS, the latter will be only one of the elements in the advanced functionality, Haff added.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer . And check out Enterprise Linux Log.

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