storageous

All things Storageous in Storage!


Leave a comment

Times there a Changing…

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd, the one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before”

EMC World 2014

EMC World 2014

With EMC world running this week in Las-Vegas and another raft of announcements made, I thought I’d post a blog on the new technology and more importantly the terminology which is currently in the market place. It seems the market is full of software defined messages at the moment, and this is a good thing. It means that as end users we have choice of what platform/model we adopt and use, but too many choices can be over whelming.

You may have seen that last year at EMC world EMC announced ViPR the software defined data centre message. Over the last 12 months ViPR is making traction in the market place. But lets take a step back and think what is ViPR’s aim? In my view it is to automate and do what we do today only better, the whole point of having something defined/automated in software is to improve what we do today and automate where we can. One person once summed up SDDC for me pretty well, and simply stated “Software Defined is simply doing for the data centre what Virtualisation did for the server layer”. The concept to understand with ViPR is that its application centric which means the storage services are aligned to the applications.

ViPR has just recently had support extended to HDS as well as NetApp, which is a great in road for the industry as it is the only product currently aimed at this space and trying to abstract, automate and pool resources. If you are interested in ViPR go to http://www.emc.com and download the trial which is a great insight in what this product achieves.

Okay so we have discussed one element of SDDC but this is only the storage layer, what about hardware what do I run this software on? Personally I don’t think the industry is too far away from having standardised appliances which run specialised software for your feature/functions. The server industry is now pretty much X86 and we will not be far from “Commodity” in the coming years for compute, network and storage. This means as a customer you can purchase “White box” hardware and build the software stack on this yourself such as Open Stack and a virtualisation engine or you can buy an appliance which comes already built.

EMC just announced EMC ECS (Elastic Storage Compute) EMC ECS which is exactly the latter of the paragraph above. This was previously known as “Project Nile” and is a hyper scale cloud solution which promises lower TCO costs than moving to a public cloud but being a private cloud solution is more secure. Now let me do some jargon busting here, the EMC ECS is designed for what EMC dub the “3rd Platform” this is the mobile, social and big data platform where we are managing/running millions of diverse applications rather than the traditional server client model and traditional applications.

What is a great story with ECS is the fact it can be converged with existing Private or hybrid cloud models and will boast a whole host of features from automated provisioning, self-service & 28% lower TCO than Google or Amazon. These are bold statements but I believe this is genuinely pioneering. Lets think about what I said before putting advanced software on to commodity hardware, thats all ECS is, its EMC ViPR & SRM running on standardised servers, network and storage providing seamless application provisioning and huge scale (up to 2.9PB). This is clearly aimed at service providers or companies who are considering a hybrid cloud model as a lower TCO for an environment, in my experience this year the word “Hybrid Cloud” is on everyone’s mind and is starting to ring home with companies as budgets and staff become ever more stringent.

On we go to another option or choice, do I simply employ a hybrid cloud model and off load some of my workloads to a lower TCO option in the cloud and let someone else look after it? In this space again there are an abundance of providers, newest to the market being VMware VCHS, or do I simply go to a full public model?

Another choice is do I go converged and buy everything as an appliance on specialised Hardware? Nearly every vendor in the market place now offers something like a VBLOCK.

I think you are beginning to get the idea, the market is full of choice now and choices that need to be carefully considered. If we get too lost in cost and functionality then we may lose sight of what it is we require from SDDC which is simplicity, scalability and speed of provisioning. As IT departments move to a DEV OPS environment more and more technical functionality speciality will be lost to service delivery and management, and this change is being forced by the nature of the world we live in today. Everything must be faster, more efficient and simple, managing large complex multi vendor infrastructures will start to become cumbersome and too costly. I think what is unique here is EMC have acknowledged the “Cloud” from an early stage and can now offer you a fully built cloud solution or a build it yourself option such as ViPR and your choice of commodity HW & Open Stack or something similar.

The last and final choice is, “When do I choose a direction?” This is a difficult choice the market now is full of options for all services “Cloud” and these services are ever evolving. Look how far ViPR has come from one year ago being a piece of software dipping its toe in the environment to now where it is fully embedded in an appliance and offered as “Cloud in a box”. What I would say or advise on this subject is look at where you are now and the plans of the business. This eludes to what I stated earlier, “what is the businesses primary function?” lets take a car manufacturer their sole purpose is to manufacture and sell a car for the greatest % of profit and gain as much market share as possible. If the business has stated they need to be smarter or more efficient to keep up with competitors then the business starts to look at gains/improvements which can be made across the board, lets not forget IT is a supportive function of the business.

I have worked with many customers who have a whole raft of solutions they have either tried & tested, are looking at or have heard of. My advice would be look at where you are now and the coming 3 years and assess what you can do. EMC Adaptivity can look at what applications your business uses which are suitable for certain cloud platforms, private, public or hybrid and classify what cost savings & efficiencies you can expect to gain. This is a great tool as every IT professional I have met has stated to me “I am unsure whether that application could exist in the cloud” and as we all know application landscapes are large & complex.

Once you know where you are it is easier to then make a decision on the best solution going forwards which will lets face it come down to end user experience, this is such a huge factor that many overlook. My final thought on this is EMC are daring to be a little different especially with products like ECS, ViPR and Scale IO, they are changing as a company and are always on top of the curve. With that in mind, EMC one of the largest hardware vendors in the world has admitted “Times they are a changing” and have adapted to the new demands in the market place, as end users we should adopt and try these new technologies as without trying we will not be any different from competitors or gain any new benefits.

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Inception of EMC ViPR

You could be forgiven for thinking that if data storage companies were dinosaurs, EMC would be Tyrannosaurus Rex. If they were all fish, EMC would be a shark. Nothing wrong with being a T-Rex or a shark. They’re just large, fearsome and old fashioned.

This might be how EMC is perceived from the outside in, as a large cut throat arrogant organisation. I can tell you from working here that this is definitely not the case, I have never worked in a more fluid organisation where change and creativity is embraced.

ViPR

ViPR

This for me is no more highlighted than the release of EMC ViPR at EMC World 2013, what EMC are doing is introducing a software layer to control the data centre. True EMC’s play has always been in the hardware layer coupled with software controlling this. these two layers can be defined as “Control Plane” which is the software and the “Data Plane” which is the physical hardware that sits below.

Typically what the IT industry has done is marry the control and data plane together which creates vendor lock in. As an end user this is frustrating as the “Cloud Era” by definition is supposed to be open, and while many adopt the philosophy of Cloud Computing customers still have silo’s of compute, network and storage managed by different softwares, plug in’s, skill sets etc and it is too complex. As an example of this imagine you have an EMC storage estate and a Net App storage estate, in reality these are two separate estates. You then also have to think about the compute and network layers, the management complexity of having these two infrastructures etc the list goes on. It is understandable why companies do not put all their eggs in one basket with one single vendor and it is also understandable why people chose different technologies as I will be the first to admit many technologies excel in different areas.

But what is harder to fathom is why this single control plane has not been introduced before? Well it is not from not trying, it is only now where the technology is at a level where the concept can be put in to practice. When I think of EMC ViPR I think of Facebook, Google & Twitter with their Compute, Network and Storage approach, they labelled hardware as commodity and placed a very intelligent API on top to ease management of these huge infrastructures. While this API is locked down by them and does very specific tasks in their environment EMC ViPR is planning on being much more than that.

The first thing you should know about EMC ViPR is that the source code and API’s are open, EMC are not guarding this close to their chest, this is designed to be industry wide not vendor specific. I think that this is huge, EMC have been quietly publishing API’s for some time now, a lot of it has gone un noticed, but EMC knows they cannot out manoeuvre each startup or very bright graduate student with a fantastic idea, and by hiding what you are doing you limit innovation by these very parties. This is no more evident from the story behind how ViPR began which is a collaboration from different software companies coming together each with their own expertise.

So whats the vision, just another software layer yeah? Well no this is why this is so ground breaking, think if you could aggregate your compute, network and storage layers and configure, manage and report in to one control plane regardless of vendor, protocol etc. Pretty cool right? This is pretty out there in terms of its ability, EMC will be the first ones to admit that you need different Hardware to do different things, high transaction workloads require different hardware than archives etc, but the issue with all these is that they all create islands.

What ViPR is doing is aggregating all these together, imagine if you could do that with your environment, ViPR is a software control plane that ties in to all the below API’s of your hardware and controls them through policies. Masking the user from the complexities of managing all these separate entities. Think of it like the picture below:

EMC ViPR

EMC ViPR

You can see above that a single API can reach in to a virtual pool which is actually presented from Storage below. This has been dubbed Abstract, Pool and Automate. This is truly moving towards a singular control plane and the data plane existing at a layer where we do not touch this.

I have been fortunate enough to try the lab’s with EMC ViPR and immediately what was apparent was the fact I could create services quickly and easily through a wizard which was configuring my services to a policy. For example think like this, If I wanted the best possible service, be that Gold or however you dubb this, what ViPR goes away and does is create this service based on policies, so let’s for argument sake say a VM gets created, is protected by HA, the network and zones are setup and the storage layer is protected by VPLEX. All this can be driven through a wizard and literally took me minutes to do. The most important fact to point out here is that not once did I go in to V-Centre, log in to a storage array to carve out volumes, log in to switches to create zone sets, configure firewalls and security policies etc etc, it was all done for me.

Now that for me is a pretty huge deal as it was all transparent to me and as scary as it was impressive. I am not saying that EMC ViPR is the solution to everything as it is still due to be GA and I imagine it will have a lot of tuning/change to come, but for me this is a huge step. Anyone who thinks EMC are the dinosaur or shark clearly have a view of EMC which perhaps is outdated by 10 years and I would encourage you to look at these latest offerings. What has been achieved is quite incredible and yet the concept is hugely simple, hardware is hardware and its intelligence is derived from software, by identifying and separating these two planes (Control and Data) you gain greater flexibility to innovate and this is exactly what EMC are doing.

If you would like a very in depth focussed view on EMC ViPR please visit http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2013/05/storage-virtualization-platform-re-imagined.html this blog provides a great insight in to the inception and deliverance of this software.

On a personal note, I have not had much time to dedicate to this blog of late but I will from now be doing weekly posts.