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Storage Virtualization Meets Software Defined Storage: EMC ViPR 1.0

EMC recently GA'd a first version of ViPR. Many storage folks are not still clear about what ViPR is all about.  Is it just storage virtualization repackaged to augment EMC's physical infrastructure solution features this time?  Is it a shining new example of Software Defined Storage?  Is it unified storage, management, and data services ala private cloud? What is going on here?

First, architecturally we can think of ViPR as two components. One is the ViPR controller, which when combined with storage arrays from EMC and select 3rd parties, pools that storage and presents an abstract logical storage service to clients. This is essentially storage virtualization done in a way that can leverage the underlying infrastructure's capabilities, not dumbly masking the expensive and growing storage investment. The ViPR controller does not sit in the data path - it is effectively an external control "plane" while all actual data IO goes direct to the storage infrastructure.

The controller does provides external API's, and this is where the "software defined" concepts really start to emerge. Because third party intelligence can now be used to augment, shape, and control storage services, essentially those storage services can be "software defined". Note that this does not require the controller or actual storage capability to be implemented in software (v. firmware, hardware), only that the control plane is externally programmable so that services can be defined by other "software" dynamically.

The second component is the ViPR data services layer. This enables building software-implemented storage solutions layered on top of the above capabilities creating a new data service platform (and which can in-turn choose to expose API's to also be "software definable"). Unlike the controller, new data services built on this platform can live in the data path, adding inline functionality above and across the pooled storage. In some ways, storage solutions hosted here are effectively leveraging  storage virtualization, software defined storage, and cloud storage at the same time.

ViPR in current form seems like a test platform that EMC will use to experiment in all these areas, proceeding carefully so as not to upset their major lines of existing revenue. It may be that ViPR is a concession that the future of storage is changing, and its better to be leading than left behind. While conceptually fascinating, the first data services from ViPR aren't fully compelling - generic object storage and unified provisioning that is confusing with the Atmos message. 

However, as a software solution, ViPR can be evolved in a more agile and responsive manner than hardware based product lines. We look forward to when EMC (and partner ISV's) deliver truly innovative capabilities over ViPR. We also like the nice touch to provide a "ViPR Online" cloud service for ISV's to use in testing their 3rd party apps with ViPR. That shows that EMC is committed to making this a central platform for an evolving healthy ecosystem of 3rd party value-add solutions.

  • Premiered: 10/03/13
  • Author: Mike Matchett
Topic(s): EMC Storage Virtualization Software Defined Storage ViPR


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