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So EMC have unveiled ViPR; their software defined storage initiative; like many EMC World announcements, there’s not a huge amount of detail, especially if you aren’t at EMC World. It has left many of blogger peers scratching their heads and wondering what the hell it is and whether it is something new.

Now like them, I am in that very same camp but unlike them, I am foolish enough to have a bit of guess and make myself look a fool when the EMCers descend on me and tell me how wrong I am.

Firstly, let me say what I think it isn’t; I really don’t believe that is a storage virtualisation product in the same way that SVC and VSP are. The closest EMC have to a product like this is VPLEX; a product which sits in the data-path and virtualises the disk behind it. This I don’t think is a product like this. Arguably these products are mis-named anyway; I think of these as Storage Federation products.

So that is what ViPR isn’t (and can I say that I really hate products with a mix of upper and lower case in their names!).

It is worth looking back in time to one of EMC’s most hated products (by me and many users); Control Center. I think ViPR might have some roots in ECC; to me it feels that someone has taken Control Center and turned it into a web-service; so instead of interacting by a GUI, you interact via the API.

And I wonder if that was how the control component of ViPR came about; when rewriting the core of ECC, I posit that it was abstracted away from the GUI component and perhaps some bright spark came along and thought…what if we exposed the core via an API?

Okay, it might not been of ECC and it could have been Unisphere but this seems a fairly logical thing to do. So perhaps the core of ViPR is nothing really that new, it’s just a change in presentation layer.

[Update: So a lot of the code came from Project Orion which Chad talks about here. So it has been kicking around in EMC for some time, this kind of programmable interface was being discussed and asked for at various ECC user-group/briefings prior to that.]

Then EMC have brought some additional third party arrays into the mix; NetApp seems to be the first one. Using IP that EMC picked up when they bought the UK company, WysDM; who had both a very nice backup reporting tool but also a NAS/Fileserver management tool?

Building additional third party support should be relatively simple using either their CLI or in some cases an exposed API.

So there you go, ViPR is basically a storage management tool without a GUI, or at least it is GUI optional. And with it’s REST API, perhaps you could build your own GUI or your own CLI? Or perhaps your development teams can get on and generally consume all the storage you’ve got but in a programmatic way.

It all seems pretty obvious and begs the question why no-one did this before? I think it might have been arrogance and complacency; this tool should make it easier to plug anyone’s storage into your estate.

But if this was all ViPR was; it’d be pretty tedious. Still EMC obviously read my blog and obviously read this and rapidly turned it into a product or perhaps they simply talk to lots of people too. If I’ve thought it, plenty of others had.

Object Storage has struggled to find a place in many Enterprises; it doesn’t lend itself to many applications and many developers just don’t get it. But for some applications it is ideal; it seems that it would better to have both Object and File Access to the same data, you probably don’t want store it twice either.

So yet again, it’s all about changing the presentation layer without impacting the underlying constructs. However unlike the more traditional gateways into an Object Store; EMC are putting a Object Gateway onto an NFS/SMB share (note to Chuck: call it SMB, not CIFS). Now this is almost certainly going to have to sit in the data-path for Objects. There will be some interesting locking/security model challenges and the like; simultaneous NFS/SMB and Object access is going to be interesting.

It will also require the maintenance of a separate metadata-store, something with a fast database to get that metadata out of. And perhaps EMC own some technologies to do this as well. A loosely coupled metadata store does bring some problems but it allows EMC to leverage Isilon’s architecture and also grab hold of data sitting on 3rd party devices.

[Update: Seems like EMC are using Cassandra as their underlying database. Whether it is Object on File or File on Object; not sure but whatever happens, it is allowing you access via Object or File.]

So ViPR is really at least two products; not one. So..perhaps it’s a Snakebite..

Question is…will it leave them and us lying in the gutter staring at the stars wondering why everyone is looking at us strangely?



  1. Chad Sakac says:

    ‘Bod – read my post here. It requires investment 🙂 but is detailed, has all sorts of demos and examples, and explains the origins of the idea, what we’re trying to do, and state of the product.

  2. Okay, I don’t think that I’m far wrong…I absolutely get what you are trying to do. And boy do I have some questions!

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