Disclaimer: I recently attended the EMC Forum 2013 – Sydney. My flights and accommodation were paid for by myself, however EMC provided meals and some swag. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event. Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.
In this post I’d like to touch briefly on a few more of the sessions I went to and point you in the direction of some further reading. I’m working on some more detailed content for the near future.
ViPR Software Defined Storage: Evolving to Software-Defined Data Centre
Danny Elmarji is NSW SE Manager for EMC ANZ, while David Lloyd is Advisory SE, Application Virtualisation Solutions for EMC ANZ. This was the first session after lunch and hence a likely candidate for well-fed, snoring IT guy. Fortunately, Danny and David are both quite adept at keeping the audience engaged and awake during their presentations. Danny started the session off by using a music listening analogy, demonstrating how his own expectations for music listening had changed over time (moving from LP to Walkman to iPod to Spotify). This was a neat way to lead into a discussion on how our expectations as consumers of IT had changed via evolved technology.
Virtualisation showed us the way to increased agility and reduced operating costs from an infrastructure perspective. The real value came with the ability to provision a server in minutes, not weeks. The evolution has now moved us to cloud. Danny then asks how many people feel that their company has delivered on ITaaS. Not many hands go up, despite research showing that ANZ is big on utility, virtualisation and cloud. I think the difference here is that he asked whether we felt we’ve really delivered, rather than just adopted the technology. They think that compute has got it right, but the rest of the data centre (network and storage) aren’t really there yet.
So what do we do? We’ve created an abstraction layer but it needs to be for the entire data centre, not just compute. We take the smarts from these devices and use that to create better automation and orchestration processes for those resources to use them more efficiently (lowering costs and increasing agility). Enter the idea of the software-defined data centre (SDDC). Abstract all of the resources, pool them, and then automate and orchestrate them.
Software-defined storage needs to be simple – easy to manage, easy to provision, centralised, and well-integrated / extensible. We don’t want to invest in new frames / platforms to leverage SDS. It needs to be open as well. Danny then introduces Dave to talk more about ViPR (aka that product with the really cool logo).
ViPR has two functions within it; one being the data service and the other being the control service. The control service is about centralised, simplified management. Data services is about enabling capabilities and technologies on existing storage platforms.
It needs to be simple – you don’t want to introduce a new capability and then have to invest twice the resources to keep it running. To get ViPR ready for operation, it discovers the “storage ecosystem”, and then you create the “virtual array” – the collection of connectivity attributes. You then create virtual storage pools or classes of storage service. These storage pools are designed to leverage the capabilities of the existing storage assets, not diminish or mask them. Then we can look at how it’s consumed – via a service catalogue. ViPR can leverage your enterprise service catalogue and vice versa.
David then runs through a demonstration on how the consumption of ViPR storage looks to the business user. The point here is that automation and orchestration can reduce the risk of something blowing up because of miscommunication or misunderstandings between teams. EMC’s storage best practices are also built into these controls.
It’s not just another automation and provisioning tool though. You look at everything in a centralised fashion from the perspective of logical capability, rather than discrete units of capacity and performance.
It’s also open, with the goal being that the extensibility will provide the opportunity to incorporate third-party arrays as well. Think of it in the same way as you might a driver system for third-party peripherals on Windows. Out of the box it will support all EMC hardware, including XtremIO, as well as NetApp vFilers, for example. It’s also not necessarily about changing everything to run the EMC way – you probably already have your own service catalogue and enterprise portal. EMC claim that there are integration points with these (VMware vCAC for example could use ViPR to deliver storage services). Out of the box there’ll be support for VMware, Microsoft and openstack.
David provides and example to Danny of the lifecycle of a video file, and how ViPR, by being in the data path, allows you to switch the context of the file, say from file to object, depending on the requirement you have at the time, rather than having to copy and convert the file each time. You can also do this through a number of standards – eg S3, Atmos, Centera, etc – you’re not locked in.
Danny then steps in to summarise ViPR from a business point of view. Abstract resources in the storage ecosystem, reduce management costs, pool them and orchestrate them in order to create increased flexibility within the business. The mantra is keep it simple, extensible and open.
Next Generation Unified Storage: VNX Re-defines Midrange Price and Performance
Martin Milthorpe is Director for Mid-Tier Storage, EMC ANZ and clearly a switched on fellow. While The Register was talking about a potential “VNX2” launch next month, and John Roese let slip during the keynote about a mid-range refresh coming in the next few weeks, Martin was left with the somewhat dubious distinction of having to present about a platform that pretty much everyone knows about and no one was particularly interested in. I had no problem with Martin’s skills as a presenter, nor do I have a problem with what he presented. I do, however, have a problem with the naming of the session – which can more likely be attributed to over-enthusiastic marketing folks than Martin. There was one or two slides devoted to MCx and that was it for “next-generation”. I know that EMC have had issues with timing, and it would be weird to do a Forum without really talking about the VNX. I also know there were quite a few people in the audience who were unfamiliar with the VNX, so this was a good presentation for them. I sometimes forget that this was Forum, and not a technical deep-dive or roadmap session with my local SE. So there you go. Not quite the session I expected. Should have gone to the second ViPR session.
Unfortunately I then had to head to the airport to catch my flight back to Brisbane and wasn’t able to stay for the last sessions or the cocktail party. Nonetheless, I was very happy with what I’d picked up during the day, and immensely enjoyed catching up with some old friends from EMC and other companies.
I also entered the twitter competition and picked up 2 $20 Pre-paid Visa cards. Wheee!