Red Hat to acquire Inktank, a cloud storage company with UCSC roots

Inktank founder Sage Weil developed the company's open-source Ceph data storage system as a computer science graduate student at UC Santa Cruz

Sage Weil
Sage Weil

Open-source software provider Red Hat has announced it will acquire Inktank, a data storage company with origins in a UC Santa Cruz research project, for $175 million.

Inktank founder and CTO Sage Weil built the first working prototype of the company's open-source Ceph storage software as a computer science graduate student in UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering. After earning his Ph.D. in 2007, Weil continued working to develop Ceph into a robust, massively scalable cloud storage platform.

"Ceph is the most scalable, most robust cloud storage system available, and it's open source. The acquisition by Red Hat secures Ceph's place in the open-source world," said Scott Brandt, a professor of computer science who was Weil's adviser at UCSC. Brandt is now UCSC's vice chancellor for research.

Weil was already a successful entrepreneur when he came to UC Santa Cruz in 2004 to study storage systems with Brandt. As the founder of a web hosting company (DreamHost), he saw the need for affordable, scalable data storage systems. UCSC is a leading center for research in data science, particularly in the area of storage systems. Many students and faculty in addition to Brandt and Weil contributed to the research that led to the development of Ceph at UCSC.

Ceph was initially developed as a distributed file system, a software platform that organizes and manages computer files and allows multiple clients to access files stored on remote servers. The current Ceph platform is also compatible with other data storage architectures--object storage and block storage--that are widely used in cloud computing environments.

In contrast to commercial storage solutions offered on proprietary hardware systems, Ceph is an open-source, software-defined storage system that runs on commodity hardware. Because failure of individual components is routine in large-scale storage systems with thousands of disks, Ceph is designed to be resilient and self-healing when nodes fail.

"We continue to believe that robust, scalable, and completely open storage platforms like Ceph will transform a storage industry that is still dominated by proprietary systems," Weil said in a blog post announcing the acquisition by Red Hat. He also thanked "the amazing research group at UCSC where it began."

After leaving UCSC, Weil worked on Ceph with a small team at DreamHost. In 2012, Inktank was spun off to continue developing the platform. Inktank's customers include Cisco, CERN, and Deutsche Telekom.

Red Hat is the leading commercial provider of the open-source operating system Linux, and Ceph was incorporated into the Linux kernel in 2010. According to a Red Hat press release, the acquisition of Inktank "positions Red Hat as the leading provider of open software-defined storage across object, block and file system storage."

Red Hat executive vice president and CTO Brian Stevens said in a statement, "We're thrilled to welcome Inktank to the Red Hat family. They have 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."