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EMC flies in Azure bods for TOP SECRET 'data plane' project

But will new agent Bourne shoot to kill Atmos?

We hear from insiders that EMC has a new all-encompassing storage system in development that includes object storage. It's based in Seattle, it's called the Bourne Project, and EMC no doubt hopes it will kick ass like the eponymous hero of the movies.

But there's some doubt surrounding the new project's impact on current development of the firm's Atmos technology.

EMC's VirtualGeek, Chad Sakac, wrote about some of the broader Bourne details here.

The storage community needs to create an abstracted, and decoupled “Control Plane” for storage. Think of an “OpenFlow” of storage. This has been attempted in the past (think WideSky – shudder), but never quite right. I would argue that the two parts that got mangled was either that there was no place to put this (now there is – in the “Datacenter OS” layer), or that people tried to wrap in data plane abstraction (aka “storage virtualisation”) – which is a very, VERY hard problem – and also creates crazy vendor dynamics. EMC is investing heavily here, and I would argue leading the way. We’ve hinted at “Project Bourne” for a while, and I’m staying quiet for now, but suffice it to say there is more to come.

We need to think in terms of a software-defined data centre (SDDC) and of control planes for telling the hardware what to do and data planes that actually does the job the hardware has been told to do. Sakac writes:

[T]he control plane of infrastructure (the thing that is the interface for that policy and tells the hardware what to do) – gets decoupled from the data plane of infrastructure (the stuff that actually does the business of doing whatever the hardware is there to do).

This control plane will run on commodity hardware, as pure software, be completely programmable, and is likely to be something pretty open. For Software Defined Networking (SDN) – this is OpenFlow. What will be the decoupled, software, programmable (and run on commodity hardware and likely pretty open) layer for the Software Defined Storage (SDS) world?

[The data plane] does the business of the hardware itself. For CPU, it computes. For memory, it stores and recalls – but doesn’t retain. For networking, it forwards frames and packets. For storage it persistently stores information. The change that the SDDC movement demands of the data plane creates pressure to run on commodity hardware, and changes the relative priority of features and architectures – with a distinct shift to architectures becoming more important, not less.

We understand the Bourne project includes an abstracted data plane for storage that will work with both third-party and commodity hardware. Bourne software will work with any underlying storage subsystem - EMC's own Isilon and VNX and NetApp hardware as well, for example.

Our understanding is that the Bourne project is based in Seattle where, of course, EMC's Isilon business is based. Isilon hardware is a clustered scale-out design used for files and would make a good base for a object storage system. However, it's not involved in that sense as the Bourne object storage hardware.

Project Bourne is led by Amitabh Srivastava, the ex-leader of Microsoft's Azure cloud business as well as its server business, who left Microsoft in early 2011 and joined EMC around June 2011. He has apparently bought in other Azure people from Microsoft. His LinkedIn profile details his position as the president of EMC's Advanced Storage Division in Seattle.

EMC spokesman Ed Luboja pointed us to EMC's bio paragraphs about Srivastava: “In his role as president of EMC's Advanced Storage Division, Srivastava oversees all aspects of ASD's business including product development, finance, marketing, sales, and product management.”

Is Bourne an Atmos-killer?

According to El Reg's sources, the Atmos period is coming to an end - and it is apparently because of Project Bourne. Other inside gossip included a rumour that a senior EMC exec associated with Atmos had left the company some time ago and that other management, important engineers and architects had also left the Atmos team.

But EMC has denied this:

Luboja said:

  • The executive in question has not left the company.
  • Atmos is and will continue to be an important storage platform for EMC.
  • The Atmos product and engineering groups are now part of EMC’s Advanced Storage Division. This may help explain some of the confusion over Atmos and related employees in your inquiry.
  • Luboja also pointed out that Atmos had recently announced a significant array of new capabilities (see our story here.)

Will Atmos work with Bourne software? We would expect so - it would be a Bourne imperative, don't you think? ®

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