All approaches to SDS have been wrong, until now: Srivastava, EMC

Amitabh Srivastava, President, Advanced Storage Division, EMC

There may have been a few people spitting out their coffee this morning when they read that EMC had unveiled what it called the “world’s first” software-defined storage (SDS) platform, EMC ViPR.

The 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 SDS in itself, which is something that is yet to be settled amongst 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 SDS, 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 said to CNME at EMC World 2013 in Las Vegas. “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 I 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.

“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 SDS.

Whether EMC’s definition of SDS 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 really 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.”

You can read a full analysis of EMC World 2013 and the latest announcements in the June issue of CNME. Editor Ben Rossi is reporting from the conference in Las Vegas this week. Live updates can be followed on Twitter at @ComputerNewsME and #EMCWORLD.

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