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Snakes in the Data Center: EMC ViPR Slithers In

Storage experts know that there are two ways to handle crushing data growth - the kind of growth that exceeds our traditional scale-up storage array capabilities (in one way or another). The bad way is to keep plopping down more copies of those arrays which tends to spiral OPEX out of control - there isn't as much OPEX efficiency at scale as we might naively think.

The better way depends on looking for solutions that might include things like built-in deduplication or scale-out architectures that not only improve the relatively linear CAPEX per unit of data, but change the OPEX curve downwards as storage scales out. Compared to say, EMC VNX, we might think of EMC's Isilon as providing this kind of approach.

As storage requirements grow beyond even scale-out arrays, perhaps across data centers and geos, and need to support mixed services, multi-stage workflows and arbitrary lifecycles, the monster of complexity once again arises and OPEX ramps back up. This is where we think EMC is going with the roll out of ViPR. ViPR is a slippery thing to get a handle on because it's not just storage virtualization, but provides some real software-defined storage opportunities as well. We are looking at it as more of a possible future storage platform than simply as a bit of storage indirection. More like turning all your storage into a fungible "cloud" with all that implies (and yes, they've pre-announced a Project Nile that might someday do just that).

Some evidence for this comes out of EMC today with the most recent ViPR announcement. First, the SRM suite is now not only finally converging into a single product in v3.0, but can also manage ViPR. Although our friends at that other analyst firm dropped their "SRM Magic Quadrant" as uninteresting, we think SRM is becoming more critical in the software defined world. After all, who or what is going to provide the intelligence to steer and drive all that software defined stuff?  New generations of smart management tools! (This by the way, has implications for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technologies, the Internet Of Things (IOT), and much of what Big Data Analysis can bring to the table. See Glassbeam SCALAR for a hint of how this future is developing.)

ViPR has now added HDFS, so that you can effectively aggregate relatively expensive enterprise storage and use it like a large amount of cheap commodity disk. Seriously though, there are likely some really good use cases for this for big data workloads where the data is already found on current enterprise storage, and making copies into some other HDFS cluster just for batch analytics would just add extra cost and effort (and lower reliabilty and ...).

ViPR already has an interesting object layer. With HDFS now, EMC seems to be dipping their toe in the water for the future roadmapped file services at the ViPR level. That could present some interesting opportunities, and some conflicts between product lines.

ViPR also promises to ride atop the heap of other vendors' storage. We don't suppose EMC will be quite as generous in exposing their array level features as they are doing with things like ViPR's new support for managing SRDF for VMAXs, or that the other vendors will roll over and gladly make it easy. I picture that game where kids (of all ages) interleave their hands with each other, and then the bottom hand is slid out and slapped on top in rapid fire succession.  Until of course it all falls apart in a slap-happy heap.

For now, what we are really looking for from ViPR are some wall-to-wall data services - data protection, lifecycle management, global search, those kinds of things. For now, it seems EMC is taking its time, as ViPR might just be how EMC "eats its own young" in getting to the next generation of storage solutions, and that can be tremendously disruptive if not handled carefully. 

Let us know if you find a snake in your data center, and how that goes for you!

  • Premiered: 01/30/14
  • Author: Mike Matchett
Topic(s): EMC ViPR Virtualization Storage Big Data HDFS


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