EMC courts developers with open-source storage software push

Storage giant wants to make it easier for developers to get hold of its software and accelerate app development times

EMC has set out plans to make various parts of its storage management software portfolio open-source and give it away for free to make it easier for developers to get their hands on it. 

To this end, the company is making an open-source version of its software-defined storage management tool, ViPR, freely available to developers through GitHub in June 2015.

The proprietary version of the software was first announced by EMC at its 2013 user and partner conference, and allows users to pool their storage resources – even if their arrays are made by other suppliers – and draw on this to run cloud applications.   

The open-source version is codenamed Project CoprHD and EMC hopes the move will encourage its community of developers, partners and users to build on its functionality, and make it easier for them to tap into the demand for “third-platform” apps and services.

The latter is a theme that has been touched on at numerous points during the EMC World conference in Las Vegas, and describes how the rise of cloud, big data, social technologies and mobile devices have prompted a shift in the way applications are written, delivered and accessed by users.

As such, third-platform apps tend to run in the cloud, are written in newer programming languages, require real-time data, and are often accessed using mobile devices.

In a similar vein, EMC is also planning to make its ScaleIO software free to download for non-production use. There will also be no restrictions on how long they can use it for or the amount of storage they can manage with it.

The software allows users to convert their server storage into shared block storage that can be used as and when needed by applications.

The move is also being supported by the launch of the ScaleIO Product Community, which is being billed by the supplier as an interactive forum whereby users can seek technical support, product information and training on the software.

Role of developers increasingly important

Speaking at EMC World, EMC president of products and marketing Jeremy Burton said the decision to give away ScaleIO was prompted by the realisation that, although developers stand to gain the most from using it, very few tend to purchase the software.

Therefore, the company wants to make it easier for developers to get their hands on its software, because – as agile software development and DevOps styles of working continue to take off – the role they play in the enterprise is going to become increasingly important.

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“The developer probably has more power in this new world than at any point in the past, probably any point since the mid-90s – I always look back at that time as the golden era of application development,” said Burton.

“We are about to enter another golden era of application development and the developer is king, but developers aren’t usually the people who buy our software.

“They tend to use it, but they won’t buy it. The procurement department in the management ranks will buy, and what drives developers nuts is not having access to that software so they can build,” he added.

As a result, over the next 18 months or so, EMC plans to make more of its software freely available, which Burton described as a big “philosophical shift” for the firm.

“DevOps teams are going to be responsible for a whole host of digital projects, and we want them to take our software, give it the road test and – if they like it – buy it for production use,” he said.

“This is not time-bomb software. It is full-featured and is available for an unlimited time for non-production use.”

During a Q&A with the press at the event, EMC's Information Infrastructure business CEO, David Goulden, poured scorn on the notion that giving away its software will hit the firm's bottom line.

"We’ve told people they can download ScaleIO and use it in test and development environments, but if they want our support, they’ll have to license it," he said.

"We actually think, in many cases in the third-platform world, open-sourcing will actually enhance our ability to sell licensed products."

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