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Tom Trainer
Tom Trainer
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EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep

ViPR, EMC's latest storage offering, promises to usher in the era of software-defined storage, but the company has some work to do to make its promise a reality.

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.

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.

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TTrainer945
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TTrainer945,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 5:16:53 PM
re: EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep
Well worth noting, the storage vendors I contacted prior to posting the blog still have no comment regarding ViPR. In my opinion, EMC has made a significant competitive strive forward with ViPR.

Also worth noting is that I have been contacted by DataCore, who with their SANsymphony-V release, is stating that they have a significant background in virtualizing storage and providing in-band data and volume management.

One thing that is for sure in this space is that competition is heating up and as a user you should consider your options carefully. EMC is innovating in the homogeneous storage management area and others have been providing other solutions for some time now. The good news here is you have options.

I'll keep blogging on this space and keep you informed on EMC's progress as well as competitive responses as the occur.
TTrainer945
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TTrainer945,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 5:10:24 PM
re: EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep
I mention Flash storage in the blog, and I wanted to be clear that Flash storage is a part of a storage array; either an EMC array or third party storage array and not part of ViPR per se'. From a Data Protection perspective, ViPR supports object, file and block replication (block replication is provisioned by RecoverPoint). In ViPR deployments, backup and archive occurs in the physical infrastructure outside of ViPR. Data mobility is supported in other EMC software products - ViPR's participation in data mobility is passive.
TTrainer945
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TTrainer945,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 5:07:13 PM
re: EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep
From an open perspective, ViPR is not an "open source" software product, however it does not have to be open source in order to be open. By providing API's for front-end access (i.e. REST) and API's for storage system and storage management software connectivity, EMC is moving forward in a more open manner with ViPR, EMC informs me that one such vendor - a cloud security software vendor - tested and deployed their product with ViPR in two and a half days - all things considered, that's quick. I'll discuss Flash storage in my next update post.
TTrainer945
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TTrainer945,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 5:03:51 PM
re: EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep
From an extensibility perspective, it becomes important to come back to the basics when looking at software architecture that a vendor claims is extensible. Back to basics dictates we look at the definition of extensible as it applies in this case; a software system's behavior in modifiable without recompiling or changing the original source code. For example, a software system may have a public Application Programming Interface (API) that allows its behavior to be extended or modified by people who don't have access to the original source code. Extra functionality, products or attachments can be provided through externally coded extensions. ViPR supports this type of extensibility within its architecture. In the next post I'll discuss the "open" perspective.
TTrainer945
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TTrainer945,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/8/2013 | 4:58:54 PM
re: EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep
Recently, I had an opportunity to have a follow up discussion on ViPR with EMC. In that discussion we touched on a few things I believe will be helpful for readers of this blog. First, EMC believes there is validity to the growing Software-Defined Infrastructure (SDI) movement and they believe ViPR, a software only product, fits within SDI and helps further evolve SDI by integrating into VMware and OpenStack - for example. I tend to agree with them. Some may argue that ViPR is not open nor extensible architecture. I will look at this further in another update post here.
TTrainer945
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TTrainer945,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2013 | 4:36:00 PM
re: EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep
The way I see it is that EMC will consistently want to support third-party storage within ViPR so that users can continually use installed storage that may be part of an embedded business application or mission function.

Additionally, supporting third-party storage enables EMC to visualize more of the storage devices and capacity within an enterprise and to consult with a user on storage planning. Another view of this could be that EMC has a better view of the installed third-party storage and thus good competitive positioning.

Finally, supporting third-party storage fulfills on the promise to make ViPR open on the back-end (storage side). "Open" is a term that has been thrown around for a long time. By supplying API's (or adapters), it is my view that EMC is trying to make ViPR open. "Open" purists may disagree in that open should mean open for all without restriction. In today's modern datacenter, and today's very dangerous world, I believe open should be approached with a sharp eye toward security and 24x7xForever data availability. In this vain, open requires thoughtful participation of all parties.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2013 | 12:27:10 AM
re: EMC ViPR: Promises to Keep
What's EMC's rationale for wanting to incorporate third-party storage?
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