EMC: Open source for the ViPR isn't sauce for the Golden Goose

This week I spoke to EMC marketing VP Josh Goldstein about XtremIO 4.0.

EMC’s flagship all-flash array has seen it move from third place in the all-flash stakes to first, with Gartner in 2013 ranking it at 11.1% market share behind IBM (24.6%) and Pure Storage (17.1%).

By 2014 EMC had achieved pole position with 31.1% market share. Pure Storage was second with 19%, and IBM third with 16% while no other vendor had more than 7%.

That’s remarkable progress indeed.

Recently we’ve also heard much of EMC’s forays into open source, with the opening of ViPR code to developers in Project CoprHD, as well as continued commitment to software-defined storage.

In a blog post coinciding with EMC’s open sourcing of ViPR Manuvir Das, engineering VP with EMC’s advanced software division, spoke of how software development has changed, how open source has become mainstream, how its accelerates innovation and how excited EMC is about its “open source strategy”.

So caught up in the excitement was I that when I spoke to Goldstein about XtremIO I thought I’d ask him if it too would become open source.

Of course I already knew the answer and Josh’s immediate response was laughter. I pressed further and he said, “There is no plan to open source XtremIO. I’m not sure what the business model would be.”

It’s not like open source business models are a great mystery. There is a core of software code around a project/product and its open for free use and modification to anyone. Meanwhile, commercial distributions take in updates and changes in a more controlled fashion and charge customers for installation, configuration, support etc.

It could quite easily be applied to any product, even an all-flash array product like XtremIO.

But of course it won’t be because it is precisely XtremIO’s software that is the goose laying the golden egg for EMC and the upgrade to version 4.0 demonstrated further innovation on the fundamentals of the XtremIO XIOS operating system (OS).

In the upgrades announced at EMC World in May the XtremIO headlines were topped by an increase in X-Brick capacity to 40TB and totals for a rack topping 1PB.

But the other key announcements all built on XIOS’s block storage technology, which sees data deduplicated and compressed on ingest. Building on that fundamental characteristic, EMC announced:

  • Integration of XtremIO and its RecoverPoint data protection software with leverage of the same dedupe and compression as in the XIOS engine to speed data transmission over the wire.
  • Copy data management with, for example, versions of Oracle, SQL Server and SAP databases generated over a lifecycle able to reside on XtremIO by use of space-efficient copies based, again, on that dedupe and compression algorithm in XIOS.


So, really, it’s not like EMC couldn’t open source XtremIO like it has done with ViPR. It’s just that XtremIO’s software is a goose that’s laying a golden all-flash egg for EMC, while ViPR can show no similar market share figures and has been open sourced in an apparent attempt to breathe life into it.

It’s obvious really, but EMC could never come out and say this.

PS: Goldstein also said there is no plan to make XtremIO available as a software-only product for customers to install on their chosen X86 hardware.

“It’s a choice,” said Goldstein. “Our customers like pre-packaged arrays. They’re standard X86 servers and CPUs anyway and all the value is in the software so there are no big savings to be made by buying your own hardware.”