Originally Published: Monday, 10 September 2001 Author: S. A. Hayes
Published to: develop_articles/Development Articles Page: 2/2 - [Printable]

An Interview with Matthew O'Keefe of Sistina Software

Somebody forgot to tell Sistina the dot.com boom was over. This start-up walked away from Linux World with two awards and plenty of interest in their technology. Intrigued, we went to find out more. Linux.com met with Matthew O'Keefe founder of Sistina Software on the show floor to ask him for a primer on network storage and how Sistina fits into the picture. At the same time we asked him about the GPL and the Aladdin license and got some very interesting answers. Read on dot-com busters and sees how's it's done.

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The Academy and the Bazaar

Linux.com: How do you like the jump from academia to business?

Matthew O'Keefe: I love it! I really love it. It's alot of fun. I like academia too, but the beurocracy and raising money is really painful. Not that it isn't painful in business too. <laughs>

Linux.com: Academics move slowly, too.

Matthew O'Keefe: Exactly, yes. So, I like the academy but I'm also really enjoying business.

Linux.com: What's the open source component to Sistina's technology?

Matthew O'Keefe: Right, so we've always really seen ourselves as open source until the very latest version. The source is still available in the latest version however. We use the Aladdin public license. So, the source is available but it doesn't meet the absolute strict "Bruce Perens" GPL guidelines. What we do is we differentiate. If you are a commercial entity and you are going to resell GFS in a commercial or embedded product, or put it together with some other commercial software...

Linux.com: But individuals can still download the source and...

Matthew O'Keefe: That's correct. Most users can just use it for free irregardless of the commercial side. Linux.com: Why did you make that decision?

Matthew O'Keefe: GFS is an OEM product, it's not really a direct-for-sale type of product. What we have found is that our OEMs like the Aladdin approach because they are all on a level playing field. If it's GPL the problem is that there is an economic incentive for them to not give you any money. If their competitor gets the advantages of what they put in, then, well that's a problem for the OEM.

But for community based projects, where everybody is kicking in and sharing, then the GPL starts to make more sense, where it is fully distributed.

But for GFS, where there is a single entity, we think the Aladdin license, which is used today for GhostScript, worked successfully. He wanted GhostScript in laser printers and the folks who could do that will pay the license, but if you're just using GhostScript and you need to get at the source code, you can. We think it is a reasonable approach because you get the best of both worlds.

Linux.com: Well put. That's definitely an intriguing licensing scheme. What's next for Sistina Software?

Matthew O'Keefe: Well, we just released GFS, we are also developing a Linux logical volume manager along with a lot of the community so we have the lead developer, the maintainer and several other senior developers working on that. That's pure GPL and more of a community project so lots of people are sharing resources.

Linux.com: You maintain the CVS tree and stuff?

Matthew O'Keefe: Right, and bug tracking and, well, most of the developers do work for us. But, again, people in the community contribute serious bug fixes, they contribute serious patches and they help us out with documentation.

Linux.com: How do you maintain that balance, I mean, do you just enjoy working with an open source development paradigm?

Matthew O'Keefe: Oh, absolutely.

Linux.com: Does it save you money or time or...?

Matthew O'Keefe: No question about it in the sense that what you get in return from the community is amazing system level testing. People can download it for free and if they can get access to the source code they are very enthusiastic about putting it into tough environments. That's a good thing! Now, we're a storage company, we're not an "open source company" in the strictest sense of the term, but we see open source as an alternative licensing scheme, sometimes we use it, sometime we can't.

Linux.com: That's a common place where a lot of people are going, I think. Use whatever is best for the situation.

Matthew O'Keefe: You think so?

Linux.com: Yeah, I've seen it a lot recently.

Matthew O'Keefe: We were a little concerned we'd get some nasty flaming.

Linux.com: Well, there's always going to be flaming.

Matthew O'Keefe: <laughs>

Linux.com: So, do you have any announcements at the show?

Matthew O'Keefe: Yes, the major announcement is the 4.2 release, there are some big changes there. Some of the new features are shared volume and app support: certain applications and databases need support in that way. Other changes include improvement to the file system checker, improvement to the SAN we can do over Ethernet and a variety of other features.

By the way LVM is up for an enterprise award and GFS is also up for an award.

So we might be seriously celebrating on Wednesday!

Linux.com: Cool! Well, thank you so much with talking with us here at Linux.com. Matthew O'Keefe: My Pleasure.

Sistina's Global File System (GFS) earned Top Honors at Linux World Conference and Expo IDG World Expo, in conjunction with the Uniforum association, awarded Sistina the Open Source Product Excellence Award for Best Network Server Application for Sistina's Global File System(GFS). IDG made the announcement at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco on August 29, 2001.

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