Software defined storage (SDS) is the abstraction of storage services and control from the underlying storage hardware. One of its promises is the elimination of vendor lock-in. But, as we have criticized in the past, this freedom comes at a price, you end up being even more locked in at the software layer. One way to avoid this new lock-in is to allow different vendors, other than the SDS solution’s creator, to take part in the software’s evolution. At EMC World 2015, EMC has done just that by placing ViPR into Open Source.
I wrote a column two years ago, when ViPR was first introduced, that criticized EMC’s use of the term “no vendor lock-in” because of the above mentioned software lock-in reality. This is a problem not unique to EMC, many SDS solutions end up locking you in at the software layer. At the time I called for EMC and other SDS vendors to provide an API set so that vendors could extend their solutions, with an app store like approach. EMC just did me one better, and has put the project into Open Source.
CoprHD, pronounced Copperhead, is the open source version of ViPR. In June EMC will make the product available on GitHub. This will allow a community of developers to add new capabilities to the solution, eliminating the software lock-in that concerned me. Now new capabilities can be added by the community that either compliment or even replace ViPR capabilities.
Threat To EMC?
A question I’ve been asked a lot since this announcement is, “isn’t this going to cost EMC a bunch of revenue?”. The short answer is “no”. CoprHD will be used primarily for test/dev situations. EMC believes that most companies will want to use a fully licensed and supported version, a.k.a. ViPR, when they move from test/dev into production. In fact CoprHD may end up being a net gain for EMC, since the number of potential ViPR customers will increase. If the customer comes to count on CoprHD in the test/dev phase it makes sense that they would move to ViPR as they move into production.
SDS, as a term, has been hijacked. Almost every vendor now claims that their storage systems are software defined in one way or another. At its core SDS is the abstraction of data services and management from the storage hardware, but many vendors still require that you buy their hardware with their SDS solution instead of buying software and using anyone’s hardware. While there are pros and cons to either method, the concern around software lock-in exists on both. Putting the project in Open Source, as EMC has done, essentially removes that concern and yet should still prove a profitable decision on EMC’s part.