Enterprise Unix Roundup: HP Gifts AdvFS, Big Bow on Small Box

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Jun 25, 2008


Brian Proffitt
First thing out of the gate on Monday's news cycle was the announcement from HP that it is committing its Tru64 Unix Advanced File System (AdvFS) code to an open source license. They say good things come in small packages. HP's open sourcing of the Tru64 Advanced File System is all well and good. But a big deal? Mm, maybe not so much.

Not just any open source license, either; AdvFS is now under the GNU General Public License (v2), which officially makes AdvFS free software.

HP's official line is that this is intended to help advance Linux adoption by providing yet another filesystem to the free operating system:

The source code serves as a rich technology base to advance ongoing development of Linux by providing a comprehensive foundation for Linux kernel developers to leverage and improve Linux file system functionality.

Yeah, okay, I'll buy that. After all, HP has (albeit a quietly) done much for Linux and open source development. It has given a lot of code to open and free software developers over the years, so this is par for the course.

Enterprise Unix Roundup

But is this a such a big deal for Linux? Mmmmm, not so much.

AdvFS is part of the whole Tru64 Unix package HP got when it purchased Compaq in 2002. Compaq, in turn, had picked all of this up when it acquired the Digital Equipment Corporation (aka DEC) back in 1998. In its day, AdvFS rocked the Unix world, and it was a key part of DEC's Unix (which would later become Tru64).

But as advanced as AdvFS is, you can't help but wonder: If this filesystem is so great, how come, as Illuminate analyst Gordon Haff points out, HP itself abandoned efforts to port AdvFS its homegrown HP-UX in 2004?

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There are other historical contexts going on here, which Haff's article outlines quite nicely. For me, what it comes down to is, HP could not find a use for it, so the OEM opted to toss it out as open source software.

If this sounds like looking a gift horse in the mouth, there's some truth to that. No doubt the AdvFS code is good and solid, and although I seriously doubt anyone will be porting it to Linux soon, developers of Linux filesystems, such as ReiserFS and ext4, should be able to find a benefit from the inner workings of the code.

Overall, the net effect for Linux is positive. And, really, it's positive for HP, too. By getting AdvFS out there, it might make it easier for interoperability between HP-UX and Linux machines on down the line. The goodwill effect can't hurt either.

Brian Proffitt is managing editor of JupiterWeb's Linux/Open Source channel, which includes Linux Today, LinuxPlanet and AllLinuxDevices.

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