The next meeting at our EMC Briefing Day was with the Advanced Software Division. They are responsible for their software defined storage (SDS) solution – ViPR. We have written about ViPR extensively in the past but now that the product has been released, figuring out exactly how an IT planner might leverage the product is becoming more clear.
What ViPR is not
Placing ViPR in the software defined storage solution (SDS) category is somewhat misleading. There are many products claiming to be a software defined storage solution and they all provide a variety of capabilities.
In fact, most software defined storage solutions are designed to completely replace the data services already provided by the storage arrays you have in place today. One of the central value propositions of SDS offerings is to provide a single platform for performing all storage provisioning, snapshotting, replication, etc. The challenges is by doing this, SDS solutions must sit within the data path and can impact storage performance.
ViPR, however, is different, at least in this incarnation. Instead of eliminating the provisioning or snapshot function on the storage system, it leverages it. ViPR centralizes and automates the storage provisioning and related requests such as snap shots, block replication, and in the case of EMC storage, FAST and then pushes the requests down to the connected array to be executed using the native capabilities and intelligence in the array.
This still provides a common interface to perform various storage management functions, but allows ViPR to remain mostly out of band and not impact performance. This common interface enables customers to perform various storage management functions such as cataloging and self-service access, whether from ViPR or through integration with VMware, but allows ViPR to remain out of band and not impact performance.
From an EMC and EMC customer perspective, this approach makes a lot of sense. The various EMC solutions supported, VMax, VNX, Isilon and ScaleIO, all have their own well vetted data services capabilities like snapshots. While they all can support a variety of workloads, they also have a few sweet spots that they do particularly well. ViPR allows an EMC customer to buy a variety of EMC storage solutions based on a specific application or environment need but have a single point of management to execute various storage services. ViPR will also extend these capabilities to third party products. NetApp being the first non-EMC product supported.
Beyond that, ViPR will add services not currently available in EMC primary storage solutions. The first two examples of this are object storage and HDFS (Hadoop) support. At this point, ViPR does become more of an in-band solution but it provides the ability to add object or HDFS capabilities to all of the supported storage platforms. It also provides mixed access so that data can be operated on in different modes depending on need.
While beyond the scope of this briefing note, the value of this mixed mode access can be tremendous. For example, imagine ingesting a large quantity of data from an application designed to write to an object store and then “flipping a switch” to make the storage system HDFS compatible. This can enable applications like Hadoop to analyze that information without having to move or convert terabytes of data.
Storage Swiss Take
EMC’s approach to software defined storage makes a lot of sense given their product portfolio and place in the market. It allows the various EMC divisions to continue to innovate but allows their customers to buy multiple EMC products without concern of increasing storage management complexity.