By definition: How EMC defined software-defined storage at EMC World 2013

Claims every attempt at defining it up to now - including EMC's - has been wrong.

There may have been a few people who spat out their coffee the morning they read that EMC had unveiled what it called the "world's first" software-defined storage platform, EMC ViPR.

Software-defined storage as a term in itself is not new in the industry, and neither are solutions that tout themselves as just that.

However, the basis for EMC's claim stems from the definition of software-defined storage, which is something that is yet to be settled among the industry's elite players that are all trying to be seen as leading the new paradigm.

The term rose to prominence as an ingredient of what VMware called the software-defined data centre (SDDC) at its annual virtualisation conference, VMworld, last year. An SSDC is a data centre in which the entire infrastructure - networking, server, storage and security - is virtualised, automated and managed by software.

The storage element is significant because, with an inflection point in the industry appearing imminent, those vendors that get it right will be securing a sizeable chunk of the market.

According to the man behind EMC's delve into software-defined storage, Amitabh Srivastava, President, Advanced Storage Division, every attempt at defining it up to now -- including EMC's -- has been wrong.

"Everyone is defining software-defined storage in their own way," Srivastava told CNME at EMC World 2013 in Las Vegas, where the platform was launched. "Because there is currently no fixed definition of it, a lot of them are taking an appliance that was built a few years ago and, just because it runs software and there are hardware intervals running on a virtualised system, they're calling that software-defined storage.

"I don't think so, because software-defined storage is all about building it for the cloud and the software-defined data centre. It's not about a single array; it's about an entire storage infrastructure which is highly scalable and available, because that's the end goal.

"That is why ViPR is really designed with the goal of how it can take your storage infrastructure and arrays to this massive cloud infrastructure that can plug into this software-defined data centre. None of these systems are even talking about any of the stuff we are talking about."

In any device, the data path is where the data comes in and out of the array, and the control path is used to really manage the arrays.

According to Srivastava, all previous systems claiming to be software-defined have been built first of all as an appliance, and always in the data path.

ViPR manages both planes and decouples them from each other to allow them to be used together. Customers can also use only the control plane to manage the underlying intelligence of the storage arrays through policy-based automation, which EMC called a "radical departure" from prior attempts to virtualise storage.

"We looked at all the systems and approaches of the past, and realised that putting in the data path is not the right architecture if you are really trying to go to the cloud," he said. "What ViPR does is decouple the control path and the data path, and it is the only one that does that.

"By decoupling it, if you just want automation, you can just do it with the control path and you don't have to mess with the data path. We believe this is a requisite for a truly software-defined storage platform because, when you virtualise, you have to preserve the value of the underlying arrays."

Srivastava also claimed that previous systems have not been built as a highly distributed and scalable architecture, which means objects cannot be built on top of it, another important aspect of software-defined storage.

Built for volume

ViPR is designed to deal with the vastly growing data by allowing enterprises to drive towards the operational model of Web-scale data centres without having to hire thousands of technical experts to build a custom environment.

The platform offers the ability to view objects as files, and provides file access performance without the latency inherent to object storage. It also provides the capability to be implemented entirely in software, and will run against EMC, non-EMC and commodity hardware.

EMC is essentially trying to do for storage what VMware has already done for servers -- abstracting, pooling and automating the infrastructure.

First and foremost, EMC ViPR is designed for cloud environments, and specifically service providers. However, the company is also touting ViPR as suitable for the many enterprise IT departments that are transforming themselves to offer IT-as-a-service and building out their own internal Web-scale clouds.

Whether EMC's definition of software-defined storage is what the market wants will only be determined by the customer response, but Srivastava said he is confident he and his team have got it right this time.

"We are so confident it will be our definition because nobody knows storage better than us, nobody knows enterprise better than us, and nobody knows cloud better than us," he said.

"We are the only ones looking at the problem holistically, and really trying to get to the places where we can add value to the customer, who save lots of dollars because their management and operation costs are going down, and they are being provided a path to the cloud. That's why we are confident we will succeed."

Should software-defined storage catch on, as many predict, Srivastava identified the Middle East as a region where CIOs can now jump ahead in storage innovation--if they're willing to take the opportunity early.

"Whenever industries are at an inflection point--as the storage industry is now with the emergence of software-defined storage--there is a major opportunity to leapfrog," he said.

"So I think many Middle East CIOs will be thinking why they should build a traditional IT infrastructure when they can leapfrog and build a software-defined data centre from the get-go."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags storagesoftware-defined storageemc

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ben Rossi

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?