Red Hat Acquires Open-Source Storage Vendor Inktank for $175 Million

The lead commercial vendor behind the popular open-source Ceph filesystem gets picked up by Red Hat.

Linux vendor Red Hat today announced the acquisition of privately held open-source storage firm Inktank for approximately $175 million in cash. The deal is Red Hat's first major acquisition of 2014 and is the second major storage vendor acquisition for Red Hat in the last three years.

Inktank is the lead commercial vendor behind the open-source Ceph distributed storage filesystem created by Sage Weil, who is also the company's CEO. The open-source Ceph project officially got under way in 2006 and became part of the mainline Linux 2.6.34 kernel in May of 2010.

Weil founded Inktank in May of 2012 as a way to help support companies that want to run Ceph in production environments. Weil is also a co-founder of hosting provider Dreamhost, where the Ceph project got its start. Inktank as a privately held company enjoyed the financial backing of Dreamhost as well as Mark Shuttleworth, who leads Red Hat's Linux rival, Ubuntu Linux.

Ceph in some respects is seen as a competitor to the open-source Gluster filesystem project. Red Hat acquired Gluster in 2011 for $136 million and has since leveraged Gluster to become the core of the Red Hat Storage product line.

In an FAQ published by Red Hat about the Inktank deal, Red Hat acknowledges that Ceph and Gluster are very similar software-based storage technologies.

"Inktank has a more mature block interface and OpenStack integration, while Gluster has a more mature file system interface and traditional web storage integration," Red Hat stated. "Therefore, the two complement each other very well and we believe the combination is a very attractive alternative to traditional proprietary storage."

Red Hat is a pure-play open-source vendor and so will need to adjust Inktank's product strategy somewhat. Inktank has an open core model for software, where there is an open-source code base and then proprietary code developed on top to provide additional functionality for a price. In the pure-play open-source model, everything is open-source. When Red Hat acquired Gluster, it also needed to adjust the Gluster road map from an open core to a full open-source model.

"One important change that will take place involves Inktank's product strategy, in which some add-on software we have developed is proprietary," Weil wrote in a blog post. "In contrast, Red Hat favors a pure open source model."

Inktank has a Ceph Enterprise product that includes the Calamari monitoring and diagnostics tool. Calamari will now transition from being a proprietary technology to being an open-source project.

"Red Hat is one of only a handful of companies that I trust to steward the Ceph project," Weil said. "When we started Inktank two years ago, our goal was to build the business by making Ceph successful as a broad-based, collaborative open source project with a vibrant user, developer, and commercial community. Red Hat shares this vision."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.