EMC’s ViPR Slithers Into Open Source

EMC on Wednesday announced it will release its commercial ViPR software storage controller technology as an open source project called “CoprHD.”

The ViPR software controller puts the control functionality and the data services into separate operational planes, allowing different data services to be layered onto a set of storage hardware products and cloud storage.

Project CoprHD is EMC’s first foray into the open source marketing model. Any success it has will boost EMC’s commercial development as well.

“The community has more options to innovate, especially on industry-leading products,” said Suresh Sathyamurthy, senior director of product marketing for emerging technologies at EMC.

Their contributions will be leveraged by a significant customer base of EMC and other vendors,” he told LinuxInsider.

Win-Win Either Way

Unleashing ViPR as open source is a radical change of strategy for EMC. Creating Project CoprHD is an outgrowth of the company’s working relationship with some open source elements.

Even if the open source project fails to gain much user or developer support, EMC will hang onto its commercial product, ViPR. So EMC has some flexibility in its development of the storage controller technology.

“The commercial product will not go away. We will continue to develop it and issue updates to users,” EMC spokesperson Kevin Kempskie told LinuxInsider. “The open source product will be developed and maintained as a separate community-driven product.”

EMC will not walk away from open source activity. Project CoprHD is the first of numerous community-development efforts to follow, Sathyamurthy said.

Still Snaking a Chance

Although EMC is taking at least some risk in opening its commercial product line, taking ViPR open source may be a natural next step to expand EMC’s existing community activities.

Together with VMware, EMC helped start the Cloud Foundry Foundation, now owned by Pivotal. EMC chairs the organization. It also works with several OpenStack tools.

“EMC wants to encourage ViPR controller adoption as broadly as possible. This will help create a market for its data services — like storage management, replication, data protection, etc. — that they are building on top of the ViPR controller layer in their ViPR data services layer,” said Mike Matchett, senior analyst and consultant for the Taneja Group.

That poses a potential risk if third-party developers find it hard to invest in building their own ViPR data services over a proprietary ViPR controller layer. As a result of its open sourcing the controller, EMC expects entrepreneurial third-party solutions will emerge to help promote wide acceptance and adoption, Matchett told LinuxInsider.

What’s at Stake

The advantage for EMC in open sourcing its ViPR Controller is a high potential for advancement and market reach.

That comes not only from people using the technology, but also from their improving it, according to Kiko Doran, Founder of InGroup Consulting.

The open source approach allows other companies to develop their own applications on top of EMC’s software. This could extend the company’s reach into many different storage platforms and increase its value in multivendor enterprise environments.

“The downside, of course, is that competitors could exploit their technology by improving upon it and offering it cheaper or free in an effort to push EMC out of the market. Given the spirit of the open source community and EMC’s current market share, this is not as likely,” Doran told LinuxInsider.

“Open source invites collaboration and synergy with other companies doing similar efforts for the goal, and in this case, the goal is big data,” he added.

The risk of that happening to CoprHD does not outweigh the benefits for commercial feature growth in ViPR, noted Sathyamurthy. The most significant benefit to the customer and EMC is the rapid product innovation driven by the community. Ultimately, that will enhance the product’s capabilities.

“There is always a risk of any openly available code being misused. Licensing and governance models are key to prevent [misuse],” he said. “Project CoprHD will be licensed through MPL 2.0 and governed by code contributors.”

Open Source Benefits

EMC sees other advantages by going the open source route to supplement its commercial controller technology offering. For instance, the product features will be enhanced and customized to meet enterprise needs. Vendor neutrality is another significant benefit, noted Sathyamurthy.

In a year’s time it will be very clear whether EMC’s decision to go open source met with success or failure, remarked Markus Rex, CEO of ownCloud.

“I applaud EMC to add something as significant as ViPR” to the open source community, he told LinuxInsider.

“As with any other open source project that originated with a commercial product, the company has to be in it for the long haul if it wants to build a vibrant community around CoprHD,” Rex said.

The good thing is that EMC has the financial means to be in it for the long haul. It is not an all-or- nothing proposition. Given the license the company picked, it does have a lot of flexibility, he noted. Generally, when you open source something, you have to think hard before you do it. There is really no turning back.

Under CoprHD’s Hood

ViPR Controller and Project CoprHD share the same core features and functionality. As is typical when a commercial product goes open source, ViPR Controller customers benefit from access to EMC’s support and professional services. Project CoprHD users must rely on community support forums for help.

Project CoprHD is set to be licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0 (MPL 2.0), which enables customers, partners, developers and other storage vendors to access, expand and contribute to Project CoprHD’s breadth and depth of features and functionality.

Project CoprHD’s application program interfaces, or APIs, are engineered to provide developers a single, vendor-neutral control point for storage automation, said Sathyamurthy. With Project CoprHD, customers, partners, service providers and system integrators can develop new service catalog offerings with automated workflows to meet their customers’ specific needs.

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him onGoogle+.

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