Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) is acquiring Gluster, a developer of data storage technology, in a deal worth $136 million.

The acquisition was announced before markets opened Tuesday.

Gluster offers a software storage solution to link existing servers and computing systems into what Red Hat described as a “storage pool.” Red Hat envisions the technology as one that will enable it to offer services that link private, public and hybrid networks of storage.

The world’s top Linux software developer and services provider also says Gluster will help it link on-site infrastructure with off-site cloud computing resources. Cloud computing offers customers the ability to utilize servers and infrastructure on demand rather than requiring companies to purchase and maintain servers.

Gluster is a competitor in the growing storage solutions market, which is estimated to be worth $4 billion a year, according to the companies.

Customers include Internet music service Pandora and Samsung. Pandora stores 250 terabytes of information for its 75 million users with Gluster. Other customers include Deutsche Bank, Samsung, Autodesk, BAE Systems, Barnes & Noble, Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

(For a technical Q&A about the deal, read here.)

“The storage of Red Hat”

Red Hat, which has been moving aggressively into cloud computing and virtualization for data storage and utilization, said the addition of Gluster technology will enable it to offer enterprise networks better means of managing so-called “big data.”

AB Periasamy, a co-founder of Gluster, said that a goal in launching the company had been to develop into “the Red Hat of storage.”

“Now,” he added in a statement, “we are the storage of Red Hat.”

A year ago, Red Hat bought another California firm – Makara – which is focused on cloud application development. In buying Makara, Red Hat acquired a privately held firm backed by high-profile Silicon Valley venture backers Shasta Ventures, Sierra Ventures, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz.

Its co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Issac Roth certainly is familiar with Red Hat. He was the company’s fourth employee, according to the Makara website. He is a software engineer who also worked at Cisco.

Like Red Hat, Gluster technology is based on open source rather than proprietary solutions.

Big data management issues

“The explosion of big data and the new paradigm of cloud computing are converging, forcing [information technology] to re-think storage investments that are cost-effective, manageable and scale for the future,” said Brian Stevens, chief technology officer and vice president of Worldwide Engineering at Red Hat, in a statement.

Big data is defined as datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools. Difficulties include capture, storage, search, sharing, analytics, and visualizing, according to Wikipedia.

“Our customers are looking for software-based storage solutions that manage their file-based data on-premise, in the cloud and bridging between the two,” he added. “With unstructured data growth (such as log files, virtual machines, email, audio, video and documents), the 90’s paradigm of forcing everything into expensive, single-system [database management system] residing on an internal corporate [storage area network] has become unwieldy and impractical.”

According to Wikipedia, unstructured data (or unstructured information) refers to information that either does not have a pre-defined data model and/or does not fit well into relational tables. Unstructured information is typically text-heavy but may contain data such as dates, numbers, and facts as well. This results in irregularities and ambiguities that make it difficult to understand using traditional computer programs as compared to data stored in fielded form in databases or annotated (semantically tagged) in documents.

Gluster, which is based in California, launched in 2005. It is privately held.

The deal is expected to close this fall.

Red Hat expects the acquisition to not have a “material impact” on earnings for the current fiscal year but will do so in the future with services sold on a subscription basis.

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