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The Enterprise Storage Benefits Derived from Working at Home and in the Open Source Community; Interview with iXsystems CTO Jordan Hubbard Part IV

Most businesses fail to grasp and/or cannot map how they benefit if their IT staff does development for the open source community or even at home. That is not an issue with iXsystems as it openly encourages its developers to engage in storage development both at home and in the open source community. In this fourth installment in my interview series with iXsystems CTO, Hubbard shares how companies in general and iXsystems specifically benefits short and long term for its developers doing work at home and in the FreeBSD kernel community.
Ben: Do you see developers coming from a “hobbyist” category, the “enterprise” category, or both?
Jordan: Both. A lot of our external developers, people who actually send us contributions, have a foot into both worlds. They have some storage gear at home that they use for their own purposes. They have backed up all their family photos and all their Macs and Windows desktops and laptops onto the NAS, just for their own security.
The ones who are really paranoid — because they are enterprise people as well and they have seen all the failure scenarios firsthand — use the advanced replication features to replicate their stuff to offsite backup. They apply a lot of best practices in the home from the enterprise, just to make sure their wife does not beat them with a tire iron because all of the wedding photos have just gone into the void.
At the same time in their day job, they are managing potentially a petabyte (PB) worth of corporate data, and they use some of the very same solutions because it scales up so well. So they tend to have a foot into both environments.
It is pretty rare to find somebody that is purely enterprise, for example, but has no data and storage needs at home or does not want to back up their own stuff. They do a little bit of both.
We are starting to see more people who are actually more on the home side, and they just want a media server, or an iTunes streaming server so they can put their music and their movies and their TV shows and stuff in one place. They just use a small box at home which they build themselves or buy from us.
I would say the home market is growing somewhat in proportion, but the bread and butter of iXsystems still remains much more on the enterprise side. The margins are there, and just being able to go after the really big storage deployments is very attractive.
Ben: How is your relationship with the FreeBSD kernel community? You have to rely on them for your underlying technology.
Jordan: Yes, we certainly do. Without FreeBSD, iXsystems would not be here. Or it might be here, but it would be here in some other operating system solution. It would have to have the same relationship there.
What is important to note here is that “they” are “we.” We have people working at iX who are active members of the FreeBSD kernel team and security teams. iXsystems get some of its best people from that community.
One of the things that iX does really well is it does not shut them off from that community once they come on board. They continue to put substantial amounts of time into the FreeBSD project on iX’s dime. We accept that as kind of a cost of doing business. We do not begrudge that work.
This is not sort of a Google 20 percent time gig. This is literally you may work for weeks at a time on purely FreeBSD objectives, as long as we see that there is going to be an eventual return to iX in terms of increased reliability or robustness. That’s fine. There really is no line in the sand we draw between what is done for iX and what is done for the project.

In Part I of this interview series with iXsystems’ CTO Jordan Hubbard, we take a look at some ways in which iX’s value propositions set it apart from its competitors.
In Part II of this interview series, we discuss iXsystems’ ability to consult with their clients and how that practice helps them create more customizable storage appliance and server configurations.
In Part III of this interview series, we discuss how iXsystems is introducing and managing flash drives in its storage systems, and why Jordan believes that a hybrid storage approach is currently the best solution.
In Part V of this interview series, we discuss Jordan’s views of proprietary versus open source code, and how he views the responsibility of iXsystems to the open source community.
In Part VI of this interview series, we discuss Jordan’s ideas on if the open source community is a meritocracy, and what type of person has the chance to rise above the rest in the field.

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