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NetApp founder brushes off Sun threat

Dave Hitz hits back at Sun Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz.

A day after Sun Microsystems Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz said his company will sue to have Network Appliances' file-server products removed from the market, NetApp's founder Dave Hitz brushed off the threat and took issue with Schwartz's open-source reasoning.

"This sounds like Sun's broad threats when they sued Azul, but in the end, Sun didn't put Azul out of business or even stop them from shipping products. I'm quite confident that two years from now--or however long it takes this suit to reach court--NetApp will be doing just fine," Hitz said in a blog posting Thursday.

In a September lawsuit, NetApp accused Sun of infringing seven patents. Specifically, NetApp believes Sun's ZFS file system infringes on patents related to NetApp's rival WAFL software. Sun has released ZFS as open-source software, and Apple is among those using it.

According to Schwartz, NetApp wants Sun to "retract (ZFS) from the free software community," but he said that's impossible. Hitz sees things differently.

"Jonathan seems to be arguing that once something has been put into open source, it is beyond the law," Hitz said. "Jonathan's claim that 'you cannot unfree what is free' sets a very dangerous precedent. It says that you can steal anything, as long as you open source it afterwards. That can't be right!...One of the most important rules of open source is that you must only give away things that belong to you."