Two years ago, NetApp filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Sun, alleging its rival violated seven of its patents with its ZFS file system--a key element to its Solaris operating system. NetApp demanded Sun remove its ZFS file system from the open-source community and storage products, and limit its use to computing devices.
Sun, in response, filed a countersuit, alleging NetApp violated a dozen of its patents.
For Sun, which reportedly has IBM combing through its contracts as part of its due diligence in the merger discussions, the NetApp lawsuit could pose a potential problem.
The ZFS file system is a key part of Solaris, and Solaris' role in the open-source community puts it in an enviable position in relation to IBM's efforts. IBM, as a result, may not want to lose that connection to the open-source community should NetApp prevail in its Sun lawsuit.
But NetApp also has a relationship it may want to retain with IBM.
Back in 2005, the companies formed a manufacturing partnership, in which NetApp's network-attached storage and storage area network products were repackaged under IBM's brand.
That IBM-NetApp relationship is still intact, which is sold by Big Blue under its IBM System Storage N Series, an IBM spokesman said.
NetApp did not return e-mails or phone calls seeking comment. IBM declined to comment on rumors or speculation regarding merger talks involving Sun.