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Rivals tout antidotes to EMC's ViPR bite

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Nexenta says it's the leader: Would anyone agree?

Nexenta supplies NexentaStor, a ZFS-based storage operating system that its partners twin with disk and solid state drives to build storage arrays. Its storage is as software-defined as they come and Nexenta declares it is the leading software-defined storage company.

Its CEO, Mark Lockareff, said: "Having a company like EMC enter our market certainly validates what we have been saying all along; namely, that the old storage model is broken. Customers deserve to have a choice when it comes to selecting the hardware solutions that best fit their needs, and not be held hostage by their primary storage vendor... As we learn more about EMC’s solution, I am confident we will continue to be seen as a leader in this important market space.”

The Register storage desk would like to gently point out that whether you are effectively locked in to your storage software supplier or your storage hardware supplier, you are still locked in.

But customers can, at least, choose at which level in the storage stack they prefer to be locked:

  1. Storage array hardware with included software controller.
  2. Storage software which controls your choice of hardware.
  3. Storage hypervisor which controls your choice of storage array software and hardware. This is the level where ViPR operates.
  4. Server hypervisor with included storage management functions which are put into effect by a storage hypervisor like ViPR and/or storage array controller software and hardware.

In theory, as customers move from level 1 through to 4 they will find their storage hardware (and often software) will cost less money but they may have less storage functionality. It's a possibility that ViPR could become a part of VMware's hypervisor.

SolidFire: ViPR? It's a lot like OpenStack's Cinder project

SolidFire CEO and founder Dave Wright has written a blog about ViPR here.

SolidFire ships all-flash arrays for cloud service providers and the company is a corporate sponsor of OpenStack.

Wright characterises ViPR as "a form of storage virtualisation where a software-based control plane sits in front of heterogeneous storage, simplifying basic management and provisioning. Unlike previous storage virtualisation approaches, the ViPR controller doesn't sit in the data path, it simply configures storage arrays via their proprietary protocols while providing another proprietary (but REST-based) API on top."

He thinks it's pretty similar to the OpenStack Cinder project, which "provides a simple (and open) API for managing pools of heterogeneous storage systems. Individual vendors can write open-source plugins for their storage systems, and there are more than a dozen available today." He reckons EMC should have contributed ViPR to OpenStack instead of "attempting to create a new layer of lock-in in the orchestration stack."

His conclusion is:

Anyone considering ViPR as the solution to their storage system lock-in problem will quickly find that middleware lock-in isn't really any better.

Wright reckons EMC realises storage in the cloud is a threat to its current existence, and counters: "Open source storage virtualisation software like Cinder makes it easy for customers to move their cloud workloads to the best storage platform over time. Linux had a very similar effect in leveling the playing field for x86 servers against proprietary Unix systems."

You can't just call everything 'software-defined', mate

El Reg storage desk thinks software-defined storage has to be separately available storage virtualisation software that turns heterogeneous storage hardware and any associated storage array software into pools of storage - file, block and/or object - using storage hardware that's on site/premise or in the cloud.

Going strictly by this definition, array-level software isn't software-defined storage even if it's available on its own and can use openly available commodity storage.

That type of product is better than proprietary array software from the lock-in point of view, but is only partway along the road to fully software-defined storage.

The OpenStack idea of software-defined storage is the pinnacle of the notion although it may not offer the functionality provided by proprietary software-defined storage products like ViPR.

It may also be better to abandon the confusing notion of software-defined storage and talk of storage hypervisors, like ViPR, like Cinder and like DataCore and Sanbolic's Melio on the one hand, and array-level controller software - like NexentaStor and Data ONTAP - on the other.

Saying that array-level controller software is somehow akin to storage hypervisors is, in our view, a little misleading. ®

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