Does ViPR Eliminate Vendor Lock In?

In a recent entry we covered a quick analysis of EMC’s first big announcement at EMC World 2013; ViPR. As we discussed this is EMC’s official entry into the software defined storage market. Potentially the biggest claim is EMC’s statement that ViPR eliminates vendor lock in. But does ViPR, or frankly any software defined storage solution, really eliminate vendor lock in?

The answer depends largely on what you consider “lock in”. If ViPR supports multiple hardware vendors as well as they claim it does then storage hardware lock in may be very well eliminated. You should be able to select the vendor of your choice based on traditional hardware differentiators like performance, reliability and of course, price. Then with ViPR, you could manage and provision that storage along with your other storage assets from a single interface.

For many, that’s all the freedom they will ever need. But either knowingly or not they are being locked in at a whole different level, one that may be much harder to break – at the storage controller. This is the level where data services and provisioning are all performed.

Once you have fully embraced ViPR’s provisioning catalog and data services, like HDFS, you’re not leaving anytime soon. You are in fact locked in to EMC for most (or all) of your storage software for a very long time. For a vast majority of data centers that may be just fine but there is certainly lock in going on here.

This is true in any of the software defined data center concepts. Whichever vendor owns the product that is doing the abstraction now owns the data (and you) and it would be easy to fault them for doing that. But I’m really not picking on EMC here, just pointing out that “lock in” is occurring.

There is a difference though, between what we are seeing with software defined storage and software defined data centers. For example, there are ways to move your VMware virtual machines to other hypervisor software and the process of managing those migrations is getting easier, as we have written about.

To truly avoid vendor lock in, EMC will need to provide transportability of storage command and control to other software defined storage offerings. Examples of this would be the ability to migrate service catalogs between two different software defined storage products or the ability to move (at a software layer) the management of a particular storage asset to another software defined storage product. That would be truly open and force ViPR to stay competitive from both a feature standpoint as well as a price standpoint.

Storage Swiss Take

While reminiscent of storage virtualization and storage hypervisors, ViPR, and software defined storage in general, bring great promise to the data center. EMC has clearly set the bar higher with its provisioning and truly unique data services. However, the user needs to be aware of what they are getting into. They will be committing fully to a single vendor for command and control for the foreseeable future unless third parties or EMC themselves come out with a way to migrate between various software defined storage platforms.

Join Storage Switzerland for a live webinar “The Truth About Software Defined Storage” and get an advanced copy of our newest paper “What is Software Defined Storage?”

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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