On Monday, Red Hat cryptically announced that it "has acquired the assets and technology of Permabit Technology Corporation," a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company that provides software for data deduplication, compression and thin provisioning. Whether that means it's bought the company outright or just some portion of it isn't known, nor is how much money changed hands in the transaction. What is known is that 16 of Permabit's employees will be making a move to Red Hat.
It's easy to see why Red Hat would be interested in Permabit's Technology. The open source company is a leader in the hybrid computing field in which companies maintain on-prem data centers running private clouds while also incorporating public cloud services such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Compute. This means they're still running on-prem storage, and with the advent of big data, containers and the rise of hyperconverged infrastructure, there's more data being created than ever before. Permabit's technology helps store that data more efficiently.
Red Hat gains Permabit's proprietary deduplication technology, which reduces the volume of data needing to be stored by doing away with redundancies, and its compression technology to further cut down on the bits and bytes headed for the hard drive. It also gains data reduction software designed for use with Linux in cloud computing environments which was launched last year.
It also knows exactly what it's getting, as it's had an up close and personal look at the technology at work. When developing its Linux products last year, Permabit announced it was collaborating with Red Hat to test and certify its VDO data reduction for Linux with Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage software.
It also published some impressive results:
"Permabit Labs testing of VDO with unstructured data repositories on Red Hat Storage saw data reduction rate of 2:1. Permabit Labs Testing in Virtual Disk Image environments saw VDO compression and deduplication deliver up to 6:1 data reduction rates with Red Hat Storage."
Although the purpose of the collaboration was primarily to enable both companies to make tweaks to assure Permabit's data reduction technology works and plays well with Red Hat's storage products, my guess is that Red Hat was impressed with the technology and its potential. And because Red Hat is unabashedly an open source company -- it absolutely won't license closed source applications to run in its stack -- it had no choice but to purchase the tech outright if it wished to incorporate it into its own products.
In Monday's announcement, Big Red acknowledged plans to open source the technology. "This will enable customers to use a single, supported and fully-open platform to drive storage efficiency," it said, "without having to rely on heterogeneous tools or customized and poorly-supported operating systems."
The technology might help the company beef-up it's storage software more than is readily apparent. In an article published Tuesday on The Register, Simon Sharwood wondered aloud if deduplication and other tech the company is gaining might be used to bring ZFS capabilities to Linux.
ZFS, short for Zettabyte File System, is the super file system developed primarily for servers that's considered off-limits for Linux due to a license incompatibility with the GPL, Linux's license. In addition to being able to manage huge amounts of data, as its name suggests, it offers improved preservation of data integrity, allows the pooling of multiple drives into a single pool of storage, and more.
Although it's much too soon to tell, I think Sharwood might be on to something. If so, this would make ZFS -- which is becoming an increasingly evident elephant-in-the-room for Linux distribution developers -- somewhat irrelevant. It might even prod Oracle, ZFS's owner, to change the license to something clearly compatible with the GPL, making Rube Goldberg workarounds unnecessary.