Q&A: DDN's Jeff Denworth on Big Investments in Lustre

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Ed. Note: In the wake of this week’s announcements, DDN has posted an interesting FAQ on Lustre.

DDN was in the news this week with the announcement that former HP fellow Jean Luc Chatelain had joined their executive team. Now the company has announced that they are staffing up Lustre engineering in a big way in a move to fill the gap left by Oracle.

Here is the DDN Lustre announcement in a nutshell:

  • One year of free Lustre support for Sun and Oracle file system and hardware customers buying a two year support contract
  • Founding membership, investment and oversight in the OpenSFS.org file system consortium
  • Founding membership in the European Open Source Filesystem (OSF) SCE consortium
  • A strategic alliance with Whamcloud
  • Multi-million dollar worldwide expansion of DDN’s Lustre engineering staff

To learn more about the company’s plans, I caught up with Jeff Denworth, DDN’s VP of Marketing, who has been an active member of the Lustre community.

insideHPC: You’ve expanded your Lustre support engineering staff. Is that move in anticipation of increased demand or did you staff up to meet existing contracts?

Jeff Denworth: DDN has been steadily building out its engineering staff in a planned ramp toward becoming a $500M (annual revenue) scalable information solutions provider. Leveraging the 40% increase in sales that we experienced last year – we recognize that we need to invest heavily in the support and delivery of enabling and sophisticated technologies, including the Lustre file system as part of our ExaScaler platform, as customers worldwide continue to experience acute challenges in scaling conventional storage technologies.

insideHPC: DDN is a Tier1 funding member of OpenSFS, which, at $500K is a significant investment. What will that level of participation help you accomplish as a business?

Jeff Denworth: With the 2010 upheaval in the Lustre ecosystem and the change in course at Sun/Oracle, DDN and other key stakeholders in the Lustre ecosystem identified a need to formalize requirements around HPC file system development and to aggregate resources to ensure continuity and long-term viability of open source HPC storage technology. LLNL, ORNL, Cray and DDN have created a combined investment of over $2M in funding, resources, etc – this is not a trivial initiative. DDN’s involvement in the organization is principally to provide financial and organizational support – while encouraging customer–partners to actively participate, contribute and collaborate within the community.

insideHPC: Concerns have been raised in the Lustre community about OpenSFS bylaws concerning intellectual property. As a storage vendor, do you share these concerns about relinquishing control of your own IP?

Jeff Denworth: DDN has made a strong commitment to the Lustre community as evidenced by the contributions that our engineers have made to Lustre and the contribution agreements we have entered into. We have no concerns about the OpenSFS bylaws because they are focused on extending the “open” protections that the community enjoys today – this is the very reason why Lustre continues to live in spite of a change of focus within Oracle – and we think it’s smart to continue to support these protections.

insideHPC: DDN is also a founding member of the European Open Source Filesystem (OSF) SCE consortium. They don’t seem to have a web site that I can find. Can you comment on what is going on with those folks these days?

Jeff Denworth: The initial OSF organizational meeting was held just before the holidays. They are continuing to organize and exploring relationships with other Lustre-centric organizations as to not double efforts and create an even stronger customer voice.

insideHPC: The people I talk to seem to be scared to death about there being a fork in the Lustre code with the release of 2.1. Do you think that will happen?

Jeff Denworth: The 2.1 code was completed before Oracle stopped their work on Lustre, so there will be no fork. The effort in the community now is to do extensive functionality and scalability testing. The point with all of this is that it should be clear that the same people continue to do this work on Lustre, only now they have different business cards. I would not view this or future releases as a fork if many of the same people are developing and testing Lustre software.

insideHPC: So DDN is part of OpenSFS and the European OSF. What about the third leg of the Lustre community, HPCFS?

Jeff Denworth: Yes, HPCFS is another organization in the Lustre-advocacy ecosystem. DDN is currently not as actively engaged with HPCFS as we are focusing on first making OpenSFS a successful, vibrant organization and ensuring that the very serious investment that the OpenSFS founders have made is put to the best use.

insideHPC: You have a “strategic relationship” with Whamcloud. Do you have a financial stake in them as well?

Jeff Denworth: We do not hold a financial stake in Whamcloud, no. We have, however, entered into a long-term relationship with them to ensure continued Lustre support & development as to maintain both support and roadmap continuity for our worldwide customer base. Within a very short time, they have proven to be very responsive and capable of picking up the ball and really running with it.

insideHPC: Will you be competing with Whamcloud for Lustre support contracts?

We may, from time to time, compete with Whamcloud at customers who handle their own L1/L2 support. We will also compete with their other vendors who receive Lustre file system support from Whamcloud. We believe that our worldwide support and delivery investment coupled with our highly-optimized Lustre storage platforms will continue to provide DDN customers a differentiated advantage which should minimize any confusion around what to buy from what company.

insideHPC: As part of this announcement, DDN is offering limited time incentives for Thumper (Sun x4500) customers. Is it a trade-up program, or how does it work?

Jeff Denworth: The program is designed for Lustre users running on Sun storage HW of any variety – this includes the x4500 platform as well as many other Sun storage varieties. The incentives are being offered exclusively around Lustre file system support right now – however, we will consider trade-in arrangements on a case-by-case basis for added discounts. As Oracle’s strategy remains unclear on both enabling, high-density storage hardware and the Lustre file system, we simply are looking to raise awareness around DDN. We have been heavily focused on the applications, challenges and data center considerations associated with grid and HPC computing for over a decade…and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

insideHPC: Given the current business climate in HPC, are you bullish on the future of Lustre?

Jeff Denworth: We see a strong business climate in HPC as users are broadly entering the Petascale era. We are beginning to see commercial users architect Petascale systems as this capability moves out of the Research environment and into production. Lustre has powered 80% of the Petascale systems to date. That experience at scale and the reinvigorated community support – well beyond Oracle – and makes us very bullish on the future of Lustre.


  1. insideHPC: You have a “strategic relationship” with Whamcloud. Do you have a financial stake in them as well?

    That was the wrong questions, it should be do the owners of DDN have a financial stake in Whamcloud?