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EMC heads back to the high-stakes software table

Stephen Lawson | May 5, 2014
EMC's big bet on software is likely to get even bigger at this week's EMC World conference in Las Vegas.

"This is a huge cultural and delivery shift for EMC," Nadkarni said. "Delivering a storage array stack via software is an unknown thing in EMC. They've never, ever done this before."

Project Liberty is about letting customers run VNX as software on the hardware of their choice, but that doesn't necessarily mean users will have free rein, Nadkarni said. EMC puts a lot of work into certifying third-party products for use with its technology, and that will probably hold true for Liberty as well.

"They're not going to just say, 'Here you go, here's your software on a CD, go have a ball with it.' This is EMC we're talking about," Nadkarni said. "They will not certify anything where they don't know what the performance is going to look like."

The same goes for ViPR. Last September's release of the free 1.0 version was intended for uses such as teaching, academic research and proof-of-concept testing. In January, Version 1.1 came out and ViPR became generally available, still as a free download.

The software works with EMC's VMax, VNX, VPlex, Isilon and RecoverPoint hardware. It's also compatible with storage systems from NetApp and cloud software stacks from VMware and Microsoft, as well as OpenStack. Version 1.1 added support for HDFS (Hadoop Distributed File System) to turn existing storage into a big-data repository and let enterprises perform Hadoop analytics on their data in place, EMC said.

The key to making ViPR useful will be compatibility with a broad range of non-EMC products used in data centers, IDC's Nadkarni said. That includes ViPR both managing many different storage systems and working with the higher level frameworks enterprises use to control their data centers, including systems like OpenStack and authentication systems.

Whatever it may do this week, EMC is on its way to making software the heart of its core storage business, Peters of ESG said. That's where the profit margin and technology advances will come from. EMC is good at changing course and not getting too attached to any given product, he said.

"I think if you look a decade ahead, there won't be VMax and VNX like we know them today," Peters said. "EMC is a very good company at knowing that what really matters is that you're buying from EMC."


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