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EMC unveils open source storage strategy with CoprHD, Caspian

EMC vows to make open source storage management software a 'big part of our future,' and to share code for other storage applications.

LAS VEGAS -- EMC's move to open source its ViPR Controller was the biggest surprise at EMC World 2015. It was not, however, EMC's only open source news at the show.

Wednesday, a day after announcing the ViPR open source project, EMC previewed "Project Caspian," an appliance based on commodity hardware running OpenStack. The OpenStack-in-a-box project probably won't become a product until late 2015 or 2016, but is designed as a delivery platform for Pivotal's Cloud Foundry and Hadoop distributions.

EMC executives also pledged future open source rollouts, underscoring the growing importance of software to EMC's storage hardware business.

EMC said the open source version of ViPR, dubbed Project CoprHD, will enable developers to take the vendor's proprietary storage automation code and use it for application testing and development. CoprHD code will be available in June on GitHub under the Mozilla Public License 2.0.

"This is a historic moment for EMC. CoprHD is our first open source release, but it's definitely not our last. We believe open source will be a big part of our future as a company," said C.J. Desai, president of EMC's emerging products division.

EMC partners: CoprHD is long overdue

CoprHD is being designed with application programming interfaces for moving data between EMC storage and other vendors' storage arrays. EMC's main goal with CoprHD is to spark interest in ViPR among open source developers in hopes they can contribute additional application code to support expanded storage management. EMC could integrate some of that code into future commercial versions of ViPR.

EMC partners seemed to welcome EMC's foray into the world of open source. Dietmar Reinelt, SAP's vice president of global infrastructure, said his organization runs ViPR in production but is incorporating more open source projects in its environment and had concerns its EMC storage might not be able to support them all.

"The open source ViPR perfectly fit into our strategy. We don't have just EMC storage, so having ViPR as open source gives us the ability to have choices in the type of storage we use," Reinelt said.

Bev Crair, vice president and general manager of Intel Corp.'s storage group, agreed that users demand storage systems that work seamlessly across different vendors' platforms.

"Our users have been clear that they require an open, heterogeneous environment that supports interoperability, so we're very excited about ViPR going open source," Crair said.

EMC's open source move could pressure competitors

George Crump, president of IT analyst firm Storage Switzerland, said EMC has little to lose and could be ahead of the curve in making its code available for general consumption.

"Getting ViPR in the hands of more developers is a smart move on EMC's part. EMC is assuming, and I think assuming correctly, that most organizations will want to have a supported product when they move into production. So the risk of revenue loss is minimal," Crump said.

Greg Schulz, founder of the StorageIO Group, said competing storage vendors will monitor how successfully EMC wins converts among OpenStack devotees.

"EMC is looking three to five years down the road and skating to where they think the puck will be," Schulz said. "Think of someone like Rackspace or another big hyperscale provider. It's possible they could take ViPR, add their own code to it and help jumpstart getting it into OpenStack."

EMC: Caspian rollout targets OpenStack complexity

Caspian is an attempt to make open source work in the enterprise. It provides a cloud management software layer for shrinking or expanding virtualized storage on industry-standard storage servers.

"Our goal with Caspian is to address complex OpenStack implementations. We need a cloud-compute management layer that industrializes migration but makes it simple to use," EMC's Desai said.

Randy Bias, EMC vice president of technology and a director of the OpenStack Foundation, said hyperscale service providers are shunning proprietary storage platforms that don't offer an interface to support community-developed software. Bias joined EMC in October when it acquired cloud infrastructure firm CloudScaling.

"There is a sea change under way where companies are defaulting to open source," Bias said. "They're building out service-oriented architectures, and if something doesn't support open source, they're not interested. That's why we're pushing into open source."

While open source is new to EMC storage, other members of the EMC Federation have embraced it. VMware and Pivotal have open source projects.

"Open source creates an ecosystem, it adds value to our products," VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said. "We've made a dramatic shift to embrace it and make that part of our value over the last two years."

That doesn't mean the whole world is going open source, though.

"We have a lot of closed source products today, and in 10 years I imagine we'll still have a lot of closed source products," Gelsinger said.

Next Steps

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