At EMC World 2013, EMC has introduced EMC ViPR, the world’s first software-defined storage platform. As service provider and enterprise data centres grow to tens and hundreds of petabytes, the cost and complexity associated with managing them becomes untenable. 
By using EMC ViPR to manage storage infrastructure and the data residing within that infrastructure, organisations can both drive groundbreaking improvements in automation and lay down a modern storage architecture for future application deployments.
Using EMC ViPR, service providers and IT departments can drive towards the operational model of Web-scale data centres without hiring thousands of technical experts to build a custom environment.
EMC ViPR is unique in a number of ways by:
* Managing both storage infrastructure (called the control plane) and the data stored within that infrastructure (called the Data Plane);
* Decoupling the Control Plane from the Data Plane, allowing the use of both together – or enabling customers to use only the Control Plane to manage the underlying intelligence of the storage arrays through policy-based automation. This is a radical departure from prior attempts to virtualise storage;
* Offering the ability to view objects as files and provides file access performance without the latency inherent to object storage; and
* Providing the capability to be implemented entirely in software and will run against EMC, non-EMC and commodity hardware.
The EMC ViPR Controller (the Control Plane, which manages the storage infrastructure) can deliver dramatic improvements in automation because it virtualises the underlying storage infrastructure.
Common storage management functions, like provisioning or migration, are abstracted so that different storage arrays can be managed as a single pooled resource in exactly the same way.
Now for management of these highly complex functions, ViPR delivers a single point-and-click approach. This is analogous to using a universal remote control in your living room to operate your TV, DVD, streaming device and DVR.
Customers no longer need to engage in the complex and all-consuming task of interacting with multiple management interfaces that permeate heterogeneous storage arrays.
Once created, these pools of storage are carved up for consumption by applications. For this task, ViPR provides a self-service portal so application owners can browse the storage service catalogue and provision service resources best suited for their needs.
This provides IT departments with the frictionless experience the application teams are looking for – and have become accustomed to – in public cloud environments.
For most traditional storage infrastructures, EMC ViPR will purely provide the Control Plane.
It discovers storage, creates virtual storage pools, provisions those pools to the application and then gets out of the way; it is not in the data path – that is left to the array itself. In the same way that operating systems are smart about detecting the presence of things like graphics co-processors (and offloading processing), the EMC ViPR Controller is smart about what it finds in the underlying storage infrastructure.
If it can offload processing to the underlying array and leverage the intelligence there, it will.
For traditional workloads that utilise file and block, EMC ViPR steps out of the way and lets the underlying array fulfil the role of Data Plane, or the data stored within the storage infrastructure.
This represents the majority of application workloads within the data centre and EMC estimates those workloads will grow approximately 70% by 2016.
But new application workloads are emerging – often operating on vast quantities of data (big data) and servicing tens of thousands or millions of users. EMC estimates these workloads will grow approximately 700% by 2016 – an order of magnitude more than traditional.
ViPR is unique in part due to its ability to view objects as files, which provides file access performance without the latency inherent to object storage. In addition, ViPR HDFS Data Service enables customers to perform in-place analytics across the entire heterogeneous storage environment.
As a result, the all-consuming task of managing heterogeneous storage environments melts away, leaving IT with the ability to focus on supporting business priorities and innovating.
Because of the nature of these new applications, they are being architected in new ways. The massive scale required is dictating a simpler approach to storage infrastructure – specifically Object Storage. Access methods are also changing from traditional protocols such as NFS and iSCSI to new protocols such as HDFS, made famous as the underlying foundation of the Hadoop database.
To support these new application architectures EMC ViPR providers Object Data Services.
The ViPR Object Data Services will provide Amazon S3 and OpenStack Swift compatible REST APIs and HDFS access methods – existing software applications written to these APIs should run seamlessly. ViPR Object Data Services will support existing EMC Atmos, EMC VNX and EMC Isilon arrays as a persistence layer in addition to third party arrays and commodity hardware.
This enables the customer to determine, based on the application workload, what the suitable performance, quality of service and cost characteristics should be. Over time, EMC expects to provide a broader set of data services as a part of the ViPR platform.
With ViPR, EMC is doing for storage what VMware has already done for servers – abstracting, pooling and automating the infrastructure. Pools of storage created with EMC ViPR will leverage VMware APIs to simply appear as an array within VMware vSphere.
In addition, the ViPR Controller will integrate with the overarching VMware SDDC management and orchestration tool vCloud Automation Center as well as vCenter Operations Manager. In this way, storage can be managed by ViPR as an entity in its own right (and surfaced into the Microsoft and OpenStack virtual environments) or as an integral part of the VMware Software-Defined Data Center.
First and foremost, EMC ViPR is designed for cloud environments and specifically service providers; however, it is also suitable for the many enterprise IT departments that are transforming themselves to offer IT as a service and building out internal Web-scale clouds.
With this in mind, ViPR has a globally distributed architecture – enabling IT departments to avoid moving massive amounts of data across the network and perform functions like “in-place” analytics. The ViPR platform scales out as devices and data grows with no single point of failure and provides an entirely self-managing and self-provisioning environment.
“Building the Web-scale data centre is critical for service providers and large enterprises. The rise of the software-defined data centre is a groundbreaking step toward delivering the management and performance capabilities needed to protect and leverage data.
“Only by separating the data centre from its underlying hardware can IT truly deliver resources as customisable, on-demand services. As the only solution on the market today, ViPR is able to support IT services in a heterogeneous storage environment while retaining and extending the value of underlying arrays. This is a game-changer for storage.”