Tom Trainer

Network Computing Blogger

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EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep

EMC last month announced ViPR, a new product that the company positions as “software-defined storage.” ViPR provides four capabilities that EMC claims will help more effectively manage storage in the data center: pooling of storage, automated storage management, third party storage support, and an open architecture.

ViPR is part of EMC’s effort to get ahead of the storage commoditization curve, in which storage software is deployed on vanilla x86 servers and paired with low-cost storage hardware. By building in premium features such as high-speed flash storage, custom tuning and data replication, EMC can charge a premium price.

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ViPR can recognize multiple storage arrays that are configured and made available to ViPR software. It abstracts the physical storage to a virtual pool of capacity. As ViPR creates the virtual pool, it builds a catalog that is referenced as storage is provisioned. The catalog is a map between virtual and physical storage layers. ViPR uses the catalog to track of all available storage within its configuration.

Automated storage management leverages the virtual storage layer and supports policy-based storage provisioning. As a simple example, a company could allocate predetermined amounts of capacity to business units. Each time a business unit brings a new application online, storage is allocated automatically. Administrators can create manual exceptions to policies as needed.

[For more on EMC’s vision of the cloud and software-defined everything, check out “EMC CEO Talks Up The Software-Defined Data Center.”]

ViPR measures, monitors and reports on storage utilization. EMC claims that this capability will help storage administrators with charge-back to departments requesting storage.

On the third-party front, ViPR uses APIs (which EMC calls adaptors) for third-party storage. Details of how third-party vendors obtain, conform to and test functionality are still unclear, as are which vendors ViPR will support. EMC should move quickly to certify other vendors to justify its claim that ViPR is an open architecture.

EMC does support REST-based APIs for Amazon Web Services S3, OpenStack SWIFT and EMC Atmos.

I contacted a number of hardware and software storage providers to get their opinions on ViPR’s initiative to incorporate third-party storage. Only Dell agreed to comment publicly.

"It’s logical that Dell will work with EMC to test and certify our storage products with ViPR,” said Goutham Rao, CTO of data protection at Dell. “This type of software defined storage approach is exciting in many ways. Users can integrate their disparate storage systems into a pool storage and then they can provision storage quickly and obtain capacity and utilization characteristics automatically without having to do manual calculations,” he said.

Data Protection

EMC supports data protection in ViPR via Global Data Services. Global Data Services combines existing EMC data replication and data mobility products with EMC’s professional services for implementation.

ViPR supports local and remote data protection, along with data mobility (moving or migrating data from one location to another) via a virtual block controller that communicates with other EMC products such as VPLEX and RecoverPoint. EMC storage hardware products configured within ViPR will continue to support their respective replication capabilities, such as snapshots, and hardware-based replication.

Headed for Cloud

EMC is targeting ViPR for private cloud deployments. It’s had mixed success with other cloud-based initiatives, such as Atmos. In my opinion, EMC expected better results from Atmos, but I think market conditions, such as the advent of OpenStack and the growing acceptance of public clouds such as AWS, have created a tough environment for Atoms.

Will ViPR be the software product that hastens the rise of the private cloud? While it may not be the one pivotal product to do so, it will be useful for users who struggle with cloud adoption and with disparate storage environments.

That said, EMC has a few challenges ahead with ViPR: Educating the market on product functionality; demonstrating the true openness of the product (especially given that the open source movement is alive and well and will apply competitive pressure); and quickly publishing use case scenarios so that users gain confidence in the product.

Are you looking at ViPR now? Is EMC on the right path? Let us know in the comment section below.

Tom Trainer is founder and president of analyst firm Analytico. Prior to founding Analytico, Trainer was Principal Storage Product Marketing Manager at Red Hat, and Director of Marketing at Gluster prior to its acquisition by Red Hat. Tom has worked as managing senior partner at Evaluator Group, and also held senior positions at EMC, HDS, Auspex, and Memorex-Telex during his 30-year career in IT. You can follow him on Twitter at @itstorage

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