Server and StorageIO, @storageio
The EMC2 Advanced Software Division (ASD) recently announced (more here and here) enhancements to its ViPR (v1.1) software-defined storage management solution, as well as a new version of its Storage Resource Management (SRM) product (v3.0).
First, keep in mind that SRM, in the traditional server and storage world, means systems or storage resource management, aka reporting and monitoring; more recently, some solutions include analytics capabilities. On the other hand, in the VMware context, SRM refers to its Site Recovery Manager, which is for managing data protection activities. Thus, VMware’s SRM falls under the category of data protection management (DPM) (more here), not to be confused with the Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM) data protection tool. The preceding is a good example of how different terms or acronyms, even in the same or closely adjacent spaces, can have different meanings; thus, context matters.
SRM, aka Storage Resource Management
Back to storage resource management, which will be the context of the initials “SRM” for the remainder of this post, unless otherwise indicated. Most previous generations of SRM were synonymous with reporting, in many cases with a focus on capacity, while some also looked at performance activity, among other attributes. Some SRM tools have evolved, adding storage resource analysis (SRA) in order to do more than basic static reporting.
The newest version of EMC SRM (v3.0) is more than a unified GUI or user interface (UI) front end across traditional products. With SRM v3.0, EMC has combined previous solutions, including ProSphere, Storage Configuration Advisor, and Watch4net, as part of a new, single back-end and front-end architecture.
Note that SRM v3.0 also supports VMware and ViPR integration along with providing storage resource analysis (i.e., more than just static reporting of storage capacity or performance). In addition to ViPR, SRM 3.0 also supports EMC’s Data Protection Advisor (DPA), which is based on technology acquired several years ago from WySDM. Other SRM 3.0 features include support for third-party storage platforms and systems (NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, and HP) to visualize, analyze, and optimize by providing situational awareness.
What About ViPR V1.1?
If you are not familiar with ViPR, read this three-part series of posts that I did in May of 2013, when ViPR was initially announced (Part I, Part II, and Part III). As additional background, read more about ViPR v1.0 in EMC September 2013 General Availability Announcement for ViPR and EMC New VNX MCx, plus ViPR GA, followed by ViPR conversation and discussion via the Spiceworks forum.
Additions to ViPR with v1.1 include a free VMware OVF download for non-production use, along with two data services. The new data services enable access to underlying storage systems via Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) and Object Storage, including S3 REST protocols. ViPR also supports EMC Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) for replication, as well as EMC VPLEX and EMC RecoverPoint, in addition to third-party storage (NetApp, NetApp Data ONTAP).
ViPR remains one of the most misunderstood storage technologies. This confusion is due in part to the software-defined storage focus that is a popular buzz topic in the industry and the term’s many different meanings. By playing into the “software-defined” marketing games, ViPR (along with other vendors’ solutions) tends to be lumped in with many others. Some of these include storage virtualization, virtual storage, storage hypervisors, and storage appliances, among others. These examples tend to be apples to oranges comparisons.
While ViPR does have capabilities similar to those of some of the storage virtualization and software-defined solutions, it also expands into other areas that, for some, might be unknowns. ViPR is more about management. Thus, for those who need or want to use the term “software-defined,” ViPR focuses on software-defined storage management. Perhaps we will start to see more vendors talking about software-defined storage management instead of sticking with the crowd talking about software-defined storage.
ViPR and Virtual Storage Confusion
There is plenty of confusion around EMC ViPR, in part because people are using terminology for it that relates to what they know. In some cases, the confusion is genuine and similar to learning about what anything new is or is not. Likewise, there is the usual chaos and confusion of marketing hype and FUD. That marketing hype and FUD often results ViPR’s being placed in the software-defined storage category.
What is missing or misunderstood in the ViPR conversations is that it is lightweight (unless you turn on optional data services). This differs from traditional storage virtualization and from virtual storage hardware and software solutions, some of which are referred to as storage hypervisors or software-defined. ViPR is a fast-path control path approach, which means that for functions for which data services are not needed, it gets out of the way (i.e., out of the data path). However, some optional data services, such as object storage and HDFS access, are in the data path. Think of it like working with a good manager who gets out of the way most of the time, not adding any overhead; however, when needed, the manager can get involved to help out, adding value.
If you are familiar with VMware’s vSphere, ESXi, and vCenter, and in particular with what they do and how they help each other, you can see that VMware has some similarities to ViPR. For example, with VMware, the hypervisor, (i.e., ESXi), does much of the heavy lifting functioning, while vCenter is there for management, leveraging the underlying hypervisor. Speaking of ViPR and vCenter, there is also a ViPR plugin for vCenter, which you can read more about here and here.
In addition, VMware can offload functions to storage systems that support VAAI, leveraging their capabilities. However, if systems that support VAAI are not present, functions can be handled via VMware. The key here is that ViPR, with its control plane, is focused on managing the underlying storage systems, leveraging their features or, when needed, adding value via data services.
Speaking of storage virtualization, virtual storage, storage hypervisors, and software-defined storage, check out these related posts:
- Are you using or considering implementation of a storage hypervisor?
- Many faces of storage hypervisor, virtual storage or storage virtualization
- VMware buys Virsto; is it about storage hypervisors?
- Server virtualization nested and tiered hypervisors.
Some Additional Thoughts, Wishlist Items, and Things to Watch For
- Could ViPR add VAAI emulation capabilities on behalf of storage systems that do not normally provide those functions? On the other hand, would that heavy lifting add any value?
- Will EMC allow others, including the competition, to add data services plugins to ViPR? At what cost or control would it do so, not to mention which of the various EMC partners or competitors would be likely to do so (or not)?
- When will we see broader object access both northbound and southbound? Today, with the recently added data services, we have the ability to access from northbound (e.g., from servers) storage as object. On the other hand, how about ViPR accessing other object services, such as AWS S3, or AWS Glacier API (native vs. via S3 storage policies), Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, HP, and many others? In other words, ViPR functions as a unidirectional cloud gateway across public, private, and hybrid environments similar to those solutions offered by others.
- Will there be additional third-party storage system support beyond those currently supported (e.g. NetApp OnTap)? Will there be support for commodity or white box hardware? Here is a link to the current compatibility matrix document for ViPR.
In addition to reading about what it is or is not, go here and download EMC ViPR (free for non-production use) to install and see for yourself in your own lab or test environment.
I found the basic download, which is an open virtualization format (OVF), to be quick and easy to deploy into my VMware environment. From there, the next step is to configure the product, including optional data services, which you can read more about via the following links.
You can learn more about EMC ViPR in the following documentation:
- EMC ViPR Quick Start Guide ViPR Controller & ViPR Solution Pack (10-page PDF)
- EMC ViPR Installation and Configuration (84-page PDF)
- EMC ViPR Administrator Guide (144-page PDF)
- EMC ViPR User Guide (70-page PDF)
- EMC ViPR Solution Pack Installation Guide (26-page PDF).
Ok, ’nuff said (for now).