Into the ViPR’s Nest

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 posted by Dave Wright

Yesterday EMC sent out a Very Impressive Press Release about their ViPR "software defined storage" project. After navigating through the buzzword bingo, the proposed benefit appears to be a form of storage virtualization where a software-based control plane sits in front of heterogeneous storage, simplifying basic management and provisioning. Unlike previous storage virtualization 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.

Reading their description I couldn't help but think how similar this sounds to the Cinder project, which we helped launch as part of the OpenStack community more than a year ago. Cinder 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. By comparison, when ViPR launches later this year it will support only EMC and possibly NetApp arrays.

To be sure, some of EMC's plans for ViPR go beyond what is in Cinder today, but then again, ViPR isn't available today either. It's disappointing that rather than contribute that functionality to the broader storage community they are attempting to create a new layer of lock-in in the orchestration stack. EMC's idea of OpenStack integration into ViPR is to simply make it another abstraction layer under Cinder. As a corporate sponsor of OpenStack, I would have hoped EMC understood that supporting open source projects is about far more than marketing dollars.

In the end, I believe EMC has realized that the rise of cloud orchestration is a threat to their dominance at the storage systems level. Open source storage virtualization 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.

This won't be the only vendor announcement this year claiming to be the first true software defined storage product. But software defined storage (SDS) is not a single vendor product. We have already set the record straight on this topic. In a market like cloud that is clearly embracing faster innovation and increased openness, the last thing the anyone needs is another proprietary layer of lock-in. This is especially true considering there are at least two viable open source options today in OpenStack and CloudStack.

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. If you like some of the promises you see in the ViPR release but would prefer an open alternative that is available today, take a look at Cinder and join us in contributing to Cinder and OpenStack.

-Dave Wright, Founder & CEO