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EMC's ViPR: Is it really that venomous?

It's automation, but not as we know it, Jim

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Storagebod There’s a lot of discussion about what EMC's ViPR is and what it isn’t. How much of this confusion is deliberate and how much is simply the normal of fog of war which pervades the storage industry?

Firstly, it's a messy announcement; there’s a hotch-potch of products here, utilising IP from acquisitions and from internal EMC initiatives. There’s also an attempt to build a new narrative which doesn’t seem to work. Perhaps it worked better when put into the context of an EMC World event, but not so well from the outside.

And quite simply, I don’t see anything breathtaking or awe-inspiring. Perhaps I’m just hard to impress these days?

But I think there are some good ideas here.

ViPR is a tool to improve storage management and turning storage management into something that can be completely automated is a pretty good idea. But we've had the ability to script much of this for many years. The problem has always been that every vendor has a different way of doing it. Syntax and tools usually differ between vendors, and often they're not consistent between themselves.

Building pools of capability and service and calling it a virtual array? It's a good idea but nothing special. If ViPR could have virtual arrays which federate and span multiple arrays, moving workloads around within the virtual array, maintaining consistency groups and the like across arrays from different vendors ... now that’d be something special. But that would almost certainly put you into the data-path and you end up building a more traditional storage virtualisation device.

Taking an approach where the management of arrays is abstracted and presented in a consistent manner? That isn't storage virtualisation. Perhaps it is storage management virtualisation?

EMC have made a big deal about the API being open and that anyone will be able to implement plug-ins for it - any vendor should be able to produce a plug-in which will allow ViPR to “manage” their array.

I really like the idea that this also presents a consistent API to the end-user, allowing them to not care about who the vendor is at the other end - they just ask for disk from a particular pool and off it goes. This should be able to be done from an application, a web front-end or anything else which interacts with an API.

So ViPR becomes basically a translation layer.

Now, I wonder how EMC will react to someone producing their own clean-room implementation of the ViPR API? If someone does a Eucalyptus to them? Will they welcome it? Will they start messing around with the API? I am not talking about plug-ins here, I am talking about a ViPR-compatible service-broker.

On more practical things, I am also interested on how ViPR will be licensed. Will be it be a capacity-based model? A service based model? Or maybe based on number of devices?

What I don't see from ViPR is something which looks especially evil. People are talking about lock-in. Okay, if you write a lot of ViPR based automation and provisioning, you are going to be sort of locked in, yes. I don’t see anything that stops your arrays working, though, if you take ViPR out. As far as I can see, you could still administer your arrays in the normal fashion after removing ViPR.

But that in itself could be a problem. How does ViPR keep itself up to date with the current state of a storage estate? What if your storage guys try to manage through ViPR and also through the more traditional array management tools at the same time?

Do we again end up with the horrible situation where the actual state of an environment is not reflected in the centralised tool?

I know EMC will not thank me for trying to categorise ViPR as just another storage management tool headache and I am sure there is more to it. Doubtless someone will be along to brief me soon.

And I am pretty positive about what they are trying to do. I think the vitriol and FUD being thrown at it is out of all proportion but then again, so was the announcement.

Yes, I know have ignored the Object on File or File on Object part of the EMC announcement. I’ll get onto that in a later post. ®

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