Free & frictionless and sometimes open sourced

IMG_4467I was at EMCWorld2015 (see my posts on the day 1 news and day 2&3 news) and IBMEdge2015 this past month and there was a lot of news on software defined storage. And it turns out I was at an HP Storage Deep Dive the previous month and they also spoke on the topic.

One key aspect of software defined storage is how customers can consume the product. I’m not talking about licensing but rather about product trial-ability. One approach championed by HP, EMC, IBM and others is to offer their software defined storage in a new way.

Free & frictionless?

Howard Marks ( and I, had Chad Sakac (@sakacc, VirtualGeek) were on a recent GreyBeards on Storage podcast to discuss the news coming out of EMCWorld2015 and he used the term free & frictionless as a new approach to offering  emerging technology software only storage solutions.

  • Frictionless refers to not having to encounter a sales person and not having to provide a lot of information to gain access to a software download. Frictionless is a matter of degree: at one extreme all you have is a direct link to a software download and it fires up without any registration requirements whatsoever; and at the other end, you have to fill out a couple of pages about your company and your plans for the product.
  • Free refers to the ability to use the product for free in limited situations (e.g., test & development) but requires a full paid for license and support contracts when used outside these limitations.

For example:

  • Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2012 is available for a free 180-day evaluation and can be directly download. I was able to download it without having to supply any information whatsoever. Unfortunately, I don’t have any Windows Server hardware floating around that I could use to see if there was any further registration requirements for it.
  • HP StoreVirtual VSA and StoreOnce VSA are both available for a 60-day, free trial offer, downloadable from the StoreVirtual VSA and StoreOnce VSA websites. StoreVirtual VSA is also available for an free, 1TB/3-year license. You have to register for this last option and all three options require an HP Passport account to download the software. Didn’t have an HP Passport account so don’t know what else was required.
  • VMware Virtual SAN is available for a 60-day, free trial offer (with no capacity or other use restrictions). You will need a 3-server vSphere cluster so you also get vSphere and vCenter server software for free at the download website.  You will need a VMware account in order to download the software, beyond that, it’s unclear to me what’s required.
  • EMC ScaleIO will be available for free when used for test and development, by the end of this month. There is no limit on the time you can use the product, no limit on the amount of storage that can be defined and no limit on the number of servers it’s deployed on. Although the website for EMC’s ScaleIO download was up, there was no download link active on the page yet. So I can’t say what’s required to access the download.
  • IBM Spectrum Accelerate (software-only version of XIV) is going to be available for a 90-day, free trial offer. As far as I know you can do what you like with it for 90-days. I couldn’t find any links on their website for the download but it was just announced last week at IBMEdge2015.

I couldn’t find any information on an Hitachi or a NetApp software defined storage solution free trial offer but could have missed them in my searches.

There are plenty of other software defined storage solutions out there including Maxta, NexentaSpringPath, and probably a dozen others, many of which provide free trial offers. Not to mention software defined object/file systems such as Ceph, Gluster, Lustre, etc.

… And sometimes Open Source

One other item of interest out of EMCWorld2015 this month was that ViPR Controller is being open sourced as Project CoprHD (on GitHub). Its source code is scheduled to be loaded around June.

EMC, IBM, HDS, NetApp, VMware and others have all been very active in open source in the past, in areas such as storage support in Linux, OpenStack and other projects. But outside of Pivotal (an EMC Federation company), most of them have not open sourced a real product.

I believe it was Paul Maritz, CEO Pivotal who said on stage, that one reason to open source a project is to help to create an eco-system around it.

EMC open sourced ViPR Controller primarily to add even more development resources to enhance the solution. The other consideration was that customers adopting ViPR Controller in their data centers were concerned about vendor lock-in. Open sourcing ViPR Controller addresses both of these issues.

My understanding is that Project CoprHD will be under a Mozilla Public License (MPL 2.0) as standalone project. Customers can now add any storage system support they want and anyone that’s afraid of lock-in can download the software and modify it themselves. MPL 2.0 supports a copyleft style of licensing, which essentially means anyone can modify the source code but any derivative work must be licensed under MPL as well.

My understanding is that ViPR Controller will still be available as a commercial product.


From my perspective it all seems to make a lot of sense. Customers creating new applications that could use software defined storage want access to the product for free to try it out to see what it can and can’t do.

EMC’s taken a lead in offering their’s for free in test and dev situations, we’ll see if the others go along with them.










EMCWorld2015 day 1 news

We are at EMCWorld2015 in Vegas this week. Day 1 was great with new XtremIO 4.0, “The Beast”, new enhanced Data Protection, and a new VCE VxRACK converged infrastructure solution announcements. Somewhere in all the hoopla I saw an all flash VNXe appliance and VMAX3 with a cloud storage tier but these seemed to be just teasers.

XtremIO 4.0

The new hardware provides 40TB per X-brick and with compression/dedupe and the new 8-Xbrick cluster provides 320TB raw or 1.9PB effective capacity. As XtremIO supports 150K mixed IOPS/XBrick, an 8-Xbrick cluster could do 1.2M IOPS or with 250K read IOPS/Xbrick that’s 2.0M IOPS.

XtremIO 4.0 now also includes RecoverPoint integration. (I assume this means they have integrated the write splitter directly into XtremIO that way you don’t need the host version or the switch version of the write splitter.)

The other thing XtremIO 4.0 introduces is non-disruptive upgrades. This means that they can expand or contract the cluster without taking down IO activity.

There was also some mention of better application consistent snapshots, which I suspect means Microsoft VSS integration.

XtremIO 4.0 is a free software upgrade, so the ability to scale up to 8-Xbricks and non-disruptive cluster changes, and RecoverPoint integration can all be added to current XtremIO systems.

Data Protection

EMC introduced a new top end DataDomain hardware appliance the DataDomain 9500, which has 1.5X the performance (58.7TB/hr) and 4X the capacity (1.7PB) of their nearest competitor solution.

They also added a new software feature (from Maginetics) called CloudBoost™.  CloudBoost allows Networker and Avamar to backup to cloud storage. EMC also added Microsoft Ofc365 cloud backup to Spannings previous Google Apps and SalesForce cloud backups.

VMAX3 Protect Point was also enhanced to provide native backup for Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2 application environments. ProtectPoint offers a direct path between VMAX3 and  DataDomain appliances and can speed up backup performance by 20X.

EMC also announced Project Falcon which is a virtual appliance version of DataDomain software


This is a rack sized, stack of VSPEX Blue appliances (a VMware EVO:RAIL solution) with new software to bring the VCE useability and data center scale services to a hyper-converged solution. Each appliance is a 2U rack mounted compute intensive or storage intensive unit. The Blue appliances are configureed in a rack for VxRACK and with version 1 you can use VMware or KVM as a chose your own hypervisor. Version 2 will come out later this year and will be based on a complete VMware stack known as EVO: RACK.

Storage services are supplied by EMC ScaleIO. You can purchase a 1/4 rack, 1/2  rack or full rack which includes top of rack networking. You can also scale out by adding more full racks to the system. EMC said that it can technically support 1000s of racks VSPEX Blue appliances for up to ~38PB of storage.

The significant thing is that the VCE VxRACK supplies the VCE customer experience, in a hyper converged solution. However, the focus for VxRACK is tier 2 applications that don’t have a need for the extremely high availability, low response times and high performance of tier 1 applications that run on their VBLOCK solutions (with VNX, VMAX or XtremIO storage).


They had a 5th grader provision an VMAX3 gold storage (LUN) and convert it to a diamond storage (LUN) in 20.48 seconds. It seemed pretty simple to me but the kid blazed through the screens a bit fast for me to see what was going on. It wasn’t nearly as complex as it used to be.

VMAX3 also introduces CloudArray™, which uses FastX storage tiering to cloud storage (using onboard TwinStrata software). This could be used as a tier 3 or 4 storage. EMC also mentioned that you can have an XtremIO (maybe an Xbrick) behind a VMAX3 storage system. VMAX3’s software rewrite has separated data services from backend storage and one can see EMC rolling out different backend storage (like cloud storage or XtremIO) in future offerings.

Other Notes

There was a lot of discussion about the “Information Generation” a new customer for IT services. This is tied to the 3rd platform transformation that’s happening in the industry today. To address this new world IT needs to have 5 attributes:

  1. Predictively spot new opportunities for services/products
  2. Deliver a personalized experience
  3. Innovate in an agile way
  4. Develop trusted programs/apps Demonstrate transparency & trust
  5. Operate in real time

David Goulden talked a lot about what this all means and I encourage you to take a look at the video stream to learn more.

Speaking of video last year was the first year there were more online viewers of EMCWorld than actual participants. So this year EMC upped their game with more entertainment value. The opening dance sequence was pretty impressive.

A lot of talk today was on 3rd platform and the transition from 2nd platform. EMC says their new products are Platform 2.5 which are enablers for 3rd platform. I asked the question what the 3rd platform storage environment looks like and they said scale-out (read ScaleIO) converged storage environment with flash for meta-data/indexing.

As the 3rd platform transforms IT there will be some customers that will want to own the infrastructure, some that will want to use service providers and some that will use public cloud services. EMC’s hope is to capture those customers that want to own it or use service providers.

Tomorrow the focus will be on the Federation with Pivotal and VMware being up for keynotes and other sessions. Stay tuned.