In an interesting move, EMC has made ViPR available for download and evaluation with no restrictions other than mandating it for non-production use. Releasing NFR (Not For Resale) copies of software is no new thing; VEEAM have done it for years as have many other companies looking to get their software out there in people’s hands for testing and of course for spreading the word. However to my knowledge this is the first EMC mainstream product I know of that has been released in this fashion, excluding demo versions and emulators.
Now there are two ways to look at this; either EMC have realised that they need to connect with the wider community and want to use that process to gain wider acceptance for their more”challenging” product sales. On the other hand, the cynical view says that ViPR hasn’t a hope of widespread adoption and EMC are desperate to do anything that raises the product’s profile. I’d like to think that there’s a more likely middle ground being struck here.
The Legacy of SRM
The past is littered with failed attempts at creating “one tool to manage them all” pieces of software to centralise the provisioning process. There have been some valiant attempts, including CreekPath Systems (acquired in 2006) who at least had a sensible architecture that allowed vendor-specific management modules to be developed and implemented into their framework. One of the reasons for the failure of that product was the inability to alter the underlying provisioning mechanism of the target array. No matter how you package it up, you’re still using the configuration process under the covers and for platforms like DMX at the time that meant symconfigure. CreekPath’s software just didn’t deal with the provisioning process intelligently, didn’t seem to understand multi-user management environments and fell foul of feature bloat, adding features that their biggest customers requested, just to keep them on board. We also have had many, many years of development of SMI-S, which still really doesn’t offer the depth of management required to understand and configure arrays successfully, despite what seems like vast amounts of time and effort in development.
Part of the problem here is ownership. Storage vendor X and vendor Y are competing against each other (choose your own names here). Why would they want to share details of their arrays and APIs? They may choose to share with a 3rd party – they definitely won’t share with a competitor. And so we’ve ended up with half-baked standards that go nowhere towards meeting the requirements customers need. Few vendors have implemented clear and transparent APIs to manage their platforms as a part of the design, SolidFire being one of the notable exceptions.
The SRM Conundrum
So this is the situation EMC find themselves in with ViPR. The software supports EMC platforms and NetApp (who have generously made their API open and available outside of any ViPR relationship), but other platforms require SMI-S. How can EMC convince other vendors to work with them and add support to ViPR?
One way is to make the software more freely available, so the wider community grow to use and love it, then start requesting other vendors support the platform. This is probably what EMC are looking to do. A more altruistic view would be to see a scenario in which having a more open and freely available ViPR could benefit the IT community and EMC themselves. EMC could simply open-source the whole project.
The Architect’s View
EMC should be applauded for being more open with their software products as it lets end users try them out and get comfortable before buying (I for one will be doing a more objective analysis now the software and documentation is freely available). Prospective administrators can gain skills and consultants can evaluate them as part of designs and strategies. The tough part for EMC will be convincing the wider vendor storage community that a single management portal is a good thing for everyone. However therein lies the problem; people out there have long memories and looking at EMC’s track record and history, I doubt whether the likes of HP, Dell and Hitachi are likely to get on board anytime soon.
Note: details on downloading ViPR and documentation can be found here – https://www.emc.com/getvipr
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