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 (@DeepStorageNetDeepStorage.net) 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.

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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.

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