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EMC to open-source ViPR - and lots of other stuff apparently

'Emotional tribulations' within software giant on open-sourcery

Copperhead

Surprise, surprise; snake-charmer EMC is open-sourcing its ViPR Controller product.

ViPR is software storage controller tech that separates the control and data planes of operation, enabling different data services to be layered onto a set of storage hardware products - such as EMC's own arrays, Vblocks, selected third-party arrays, JBODs and cloud storage. The data services are typically ways of accessing data, such as file services,

The open source software will be called Project CoprHD* and be made available on GitHub for community development. It will include all the storage automation and control functionality and be supplied under the Mozilla Public License 2.0 (MPL 2.0). Public supporting partners for CoprHD are Intel, Verizon and SAP.

EMC would like an ecosystem to develop around ViPR and says: "All storage vendors are encouraged to contribute to Project CoprHD, further expanding the ecosystem and embracing open and standard APIs."

Customers, partners, developers and any other storage vendor will be able to develop new services and applications for CoprHD.

Although it's not a name one would immediately associate with open source, EMC says it is no stranger to the area:

  • It is a founding member of, and chairs the Cloud Foundry Foundation which was started up by VMware and is now owned by Pivotal
  • It works with with OpenStack tools, plus Chef, MongoDB, Docker, Cassandra and others
  • It has its EMC OpenStack Reference Architecture Partner Program and EMC{code}

The ViPR Controller and Project CoprHD share the same core features and functionality with ViPR Controller customers getting EMC support and services. The development process will be 100 per cent community-based. Community edition changes will be fed back into ViPR.

EMC now sees the ViPR Controller, and CoprHD, as great enabling technology.

ViPR has undergone a complicated development and it may be thought that it is no longer core to EMC's strategy. EMC however might contend that it is absolutely core - and the firm does say that the "open source model of open, collaborative development is crucial to the future success of Software-Defined Storage and storage automation and management. Project CoprHD is the next step in EMC’s open source strategy."

This is the thin end of what could be a wide open source wedge. Does it mean that every EMC software-defined storage software product will be open-sourced? Does that apply to VMware as well?

EMC president of products and marketing Jeremy Burton told us a lot of EMC products will be open sourced in the near future, suggesting a sea change in EMC strategy. He said ViPR customers wanted it open-sourced and the Cloud Foundry work knocked down lots of legal hurdles.

There have been "emotional trials and tribulations over the past year" with this idea, and the concept is spreading within EMC:

"ScaleIO will be a free download," we're told, although it is not being open-sourced. EMC software will tend to become free for developers and evaluators but with production use paid for.

Burton added: "In a production environment people are happy to pay us."

Randy Bias, who joined EMC with the Cloudscaling acquisition, has been a strong proponent within EMC of open source ideas.

You could imagine initial views of open source inside the temple of proprietary software otherwise known as EMC might be that it FOSS is a nest of vipers and a loss of control. Bias must have had an uphill struggle to charm that snake.

But we can see that if an ecosystem of developers does grow around a product technology, such as Linux and Hadoop, then it gives the product added legitimacy and removes fears of supplier lock-in. It could also, in this case, spread ViPR use and thereby weaken other suppliers' proprietary storage controller products.

Burton says: "You have to embrace the community idea and then you get influence." However - "Don't expect us to open-source the VMAX micro-code."

Open source ideas in EMC will only go so far.

EMC will continue to offer and support commercial version of the ViPR Controller. Project CoprHD will be available on GitHub in June. ®

* Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix, is a venomous pit viper. Best handle it with care if you don't want to get bitten.

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