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Sun takes a shine to Linuxcare's storage software

The company taps Linuxcare to create software to allow Linux computers to take advantage of Sun's new T3 data storage device.

Sun Microsystems has tapped Linuxcare to create software to allow Linux computers to take advantage of Sun's new T3 data storage device, the companies said today.

A four-person team at Linuxcare created the driver, which will be released in a week and a half at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, said Linuxcare chief technology officer Dave Sifry. The driver will be released under the General Public License, a necessity for incorporating it into the heart of Linux, called the kernel.

The decision was part of Sun's effort to encourage widespread use of its storage products, said Mike Nalls, manager of the T3 product at Sun. Though server sales carried Sun to a $660 million profit last quarter, the company has been criticized by financial analysts for selling most of its storage products only to customers who already have servers from Sun.

The contract, along with this week's announcement of Sun's second investment in Linuxcare, is a vote of confidence for Linuxcare, a provider of technical support, consulting and other services for the operating system.

Earlier this year, San Francisco-based Linuxcare was hit by the departures of its chief executive and chief information officer, layoffs, a postponed initial public offering, and cooling investor enthusiasm for Linux companies.

While a single driver is minor in the vast universe of computing, it's symbolic for Sun, which has been lukewarm about Linux. Linux, a clone of Unix and therefore a cousin of Sun's Solaris operating system, has been embraced by competitors such as IBM, Intel, Dell Computer, Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard.

Sun chief operating officer Ed Zander, though, has said Linux servers have been eating into sales of low-end Sun servers; he also has said Sun will focus its operating system development on Solaris.

Sun's T3 storage system, which was code-named Purple, can hold between 168 gigabytes to 88 terabytes of data; a terabyte is equivalent to 1,000 gigabytes. The system connects to the server via the high-speed fibre channel technology and supports two simultaneous connections in case one fails.

The driver will be able to control all the features of the storage system, Sifry said, including management features and the dual-connection technology.

Linuxcare will host the driver development on its site and oversee future modifications. Under the tenets of the open-source model, the collaborative code-sharing programming model of Linux, software must be freely shared.

Sun has its own driver for use in Solaris, Nalls said.

Compaq also contracted with Linuxcare to make a CD to ease installation of Linux on computers built with Compaq's Alpha chip.