ViPR and CoprHD: EMC forced to swim with the open source tide

EMC’s move to make its ViPR software-defined storage platform open source (as Project CoprHD) appears a bold one, but I can’t help thinking it looks like the giant from Hopkinton, MA, has been been subject to forces too strong to resist.


ViPR – which was launched two years ago at EMC World in 2013 – allows customers to build pools of web-scale storage from heterogenous storage media; EMC or third-party storage vendor arrays or even commodity hardware. ViPR uses its own Object Data Services that can be accessed via REST APIs including Amazon S3 or HDFS to enable analytics of data under its management.


At the time we noted that ViPR’s success would be pinned on, as Freeform Dynamics’ Tony Lock, put it: “. . . getting third parties involved. That could make or break it. It’ll take political will and diplomacy.”


And that diplomatic success has proved to be limited, with native support from other storage vendors restricted to NetApp and HDS and other makers’ arrays accessible only via the OpenStack Cinder plugin.


In some ways, support from other vendors is the first hurdle, but not necessarily the most important one. Key of course are actual ViPR customers, and those seem to have been limited to short footnotes in EMC press releases.


Meanwhile, of course, open source in the datacentre has come on leaps and bounds, in particular via OpenStack’s cloud infrastructure platform and its storage modules. Open source in general has improved its image from beard-and-sandals to near mainstream in the enterprise.


No more proof of that is EMC’s conversion to open source, and its keenness to parade its credentials in that respect.


Open source development gains from the involvement of the community and its feedback, in terms of practical improvement to the product and in terms of buy-in and credibility.


Clearly then, EMC has viewed the relative rise of open source as a threat. It initiated ViPR as an EMC product that would tie together a storage and analytics infrastructure over heterogeneous storage.


Two years later EMC has had to bow to that threat, or seize the opportunity, depending on how you wish to spin it, and now ViPR has spawned Project CoprHD.


The Massachusetts storage giant will continue to sell ViPR as a commercial project, but now it will hope its open source alter ego will help its develop and gain respectability in a way it has failed to so far.