EMC to Virtualize Any Storage with ViPR

EMC president and COO David Goudlen

EMC president and COO David Goudlen

EMC Corp.’s new software-defined storage (SDS) play, ViPR, represents a major initiative by the company to manage its own storage, as well as offerings from competitive vendors, and ultimately, any generic storage.

ViPR aims to allow customers to separate data from the storage on which is housed, allowing easier management of a company’s storage resources as a vritualized pool of storage, while allowing additional services to be brought to bear on the data contained on that storage.

The idea behind ViPR is to allow service providers and enterprise to “operate a Web-scale data center yourself,” said EMC president and COO David Goulden. And because of that, the primary opportunity EMC is courting with ViPR is the service provider market, according to Jeremy Burton, executive vice president of operations and marketing. But that’s not the extent of EMC’s ambitions.

“A lot of enterprises are creating their own cloud,” Burton noted, and that’s where ViPR fits in.

EMC argues that SDS is a change necessary for the coming “third platform” for applications, which includes mobile devices, social interactions, and cloud structure. The sheer number of applications, and the number of devices accessing those devices (jumping from 83 million apps today to 500-plus million apps in 2016, by EMC’s estimation) requires moving beyond block and file storage built for transactional consistency, and basing their resiliency on hardware, and into object-based storage, with software-based resiliency, and “eventual consistency” – that is to say that it’s okay if not every possible viewer of a piece of information gets it instantly updated, as long as the master record is respected and updates get out there in a reasonable timeframe.

The SDS platform includes two elements, ViPR Controller and ViPR Data Services.

ViPR Controller will offer management and automation services for storage infrastructure, and the company says it will support EMC and rival enterprise storage systems out of the box, and will eventually include support for any generic storage hardware. Burton likened it to “a universal remote for the datacenter.”

“There are too many dedicated controls for specific devices,” Burton said. “It’s more efficient, it’s way more productive, and it’s more reliable because you tend to do things in a standard way.”

ViPR Data Services aim to speed object-based storage by allowing storage objects to be treated like files, doing away with the latency associated with object storage. It will also allow for analytics across enterprise storage infrastructure, rather than doing it on an array-by-array basis.

Goulden said that EMC consciously decided to introduce ViPR as an integrated suite, and to have it debut together in the second half of the year, to make easier to consume, a complete platform rather than a collection of point software offerings tacked into EMC’s lineup. “We could have introduced ViPR as ten different things, but we didn’t,” he said.

With ViPR, EMC is looking to do for storage what VMware did for servers. But other attempts to introduce “software defined” systems have proven challenging. While software-defined networking has been a major buzzword in networking circles over the last 18 months, many enterprises are taking a wait-and-see approach as various networking vendors introduce their competing views of what SDN really means. And VMware itself has sought to redefine itself with the new craze, calling its overall approach to datacenter virtualization “the software-defined datacenter.”

The storage giant pushes an “ecosystems” approach to the market, and although ViPR is still some time away, networking vendor Brocade has become one of the first major technology companies to sign on for the technology. Brocade announced that its Gen 5 Fibre Channel SAN products will integrate with the ViPR platform. According to the companies, there are “more than 50,000 joint EMC and Brocade customers” who will be able to quickly jump on ViPR when it hits the market.