Red Hat Buys Inktank For $175M In Cash To Beef Up Its Cloud Storage Offerings

Red Hat, the open source software provider, is squaring up to Amazon in the storage market. It has just announced that it is buying Inktank, a developer of open-source storage systems, for $175 million in cash. Red Hat says it will combine Inktank’s primary product, Inktank Ceph Enterprise, with its own GlusterFS-based storage offering. Red Hat says the deal will make it into the largest provider of open software-defined storage across object, block and file system storage.

“[Inktank has] built an incredibly vibrant community that will continue to be nurtured as we work together to make open the de facto choice for software-defined storage,” said Brian Stevens, executive vice president and CTO, Red Hat, in a statement. “Inktank has done a brilliant job assembling a strong ecosystem around Ceph and we look forward to expanding on this success together. The strength of these world-class open storage technologies will offer compelling capability as customers move to software-based scale-out storage systems.”

This is publicly-traded Red Hat’s ninth acquisition. In dollar terms, it is one of its most, but not the most, expensive so far. The biggest was cloud middleware vendor JBoss for up to $420 million. Other biggies have included online storage vendor Gluster for $136 million — presumably the deal that formed the basis of some of its existing storage services.

Ceph, which Inktank Ceph Enterprise is based on, was developed as a replacement for legacy storage systems, but it is also presented as an alternative — and competitor — to Amazon Web Services, in that it allows service providers and enterprises to build out their own storage offerings, rather than take options like the S3 from AWS, or Elastic Block Storage. The idea with Ceph is to provide storage up to exabyte level “and beyond in a cost-effective way.”

Inktank’s customers include Cisco, CERN and Deutsche Telekom; partners include Dell and Alcatel-Lucent — all of which will now become customers and partners of Red Hat for the same products.

Inktank, based in San Francisco, had raised some $14.4 million since opening for business in 2012, with investors including Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth, and New Dream Network, owners of the cloud hosting company DreamHost. New Dream Network was co-founded by Sage Weil, the CTO and founder of Inktank. Weil was also the person behind the development of Ceph.

What the deal will mean for Inktank is the opportunity to grow its product with more direct integration with Red Hat’s other open source products.

“With a shared commitment to open source, open standards and customer success, joining forces with Red Hat is something we are all very excited about,” Weil said in a statement. “We believe our open storage technologies will be critical in the management of data in the coming era of cloud computing. Joining Red Hat will no doubt lead to tremendous innovation that will ultimately serve the industry well and answer the demand for open storage solutions fully integrated with existing and emerging data center architectures such as OpenStack.”

In case you are wondering, Ceph, the company notes, is a common nickname for a pet octopus. The etymology of company and products names goes a bit more lateral after that:

The name “Ceph” is a common nickname given to pet octopuses, short for cephalopod. Ceph was developed initially as part of a phD project at UC Santa Cruz by our CTO, Sage Weil. Cephalopods happen to be in the same mollusk family as Sammy, the very popular slug mascot at UCSC. The name Ceph also suggested the highly parallel behavior of an octopus, so it was fitting. When Inktank was formed to enable the adoption of Ceph, we decided to choose a name and imagery “ink” that was related to cephalopods. We also consider ourselves a bit of a th”inktank” for Ceph.

The transaction is expected to close in May 2014.

Image: Flickr