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EMC ViPR [EOL] OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

What is EMC ViPR [EOL]?
EMC ViPR is software-defined storage to manage and automate all storage resources for traditional and next-generation cloud storage platforms. EMC ViPR Controller is storage automation software that centralizes and transforms storage into a simple, extensible, and open platform. It abstracts and pools resources to deliver automated, policy-driven storage services on demand through a self-service catalog Ð reducing time, cost, and risk.

EMC ViPR [EOL] was previously known as ViPR.

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ITCS user
Independent Analyst and Advisory Consultant at Server StorageIO - www.storageio.com
EMC ViPR virtual physical object and software defined storage (SDS)
PART I During the recent EMCworld event in Las Vegas among other things, EMC announced ViPR (read announcement here). Note that this ViPR is not the same EMC Viper project from a few years ago that was focused on data footprint reduction (DFR) including dedupe. ViPR has been in the works for a couple of years taking a step back rethinking how storage is can be used going forward. ViPR is not a technology creation developed in a vacuum instead includes customer feedback, wants and needs. Its core themes are extensible, open and scalable. On the other hand, ViPR addresses plenty of buzzword bingo themes including: Agility, flexibility, multi-tenancy, orchestration Virtual appliance and control plane Data services and storage management IT as a Service (ITaaS) and Infrastructure…


During the recent EMCworld event in Las Vegas among other things, EMC announced ViPR (read announcement here). Note that this ViPR is not the same EMC Viper project from a few years ago that was focused on data footprint reduction (DFR) including dedupe. ViPR has been in the works for a couple of years taking a step back rethinking how storage is can be used going forward.

ViPR is not a technology creation developed in a vacuum instead includes customer feedback, wants and needs. Its core themes are extensible, open and scalable.

On the other hand, ViPR addresses plenty of buzzword bingo themes including:

  • Agility, flexibility, multi-tenancy, orchestration
  • Virtual appliance and control plane
  • Data services and storage management
  • IT as a Service (ITaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Scaling with stability without compromise
  • Software defined storage
  • Public, private, hybrid cloud
  • Big data and little data
  • Block, file and object storage
  • Control plane and data plane
  • Storage hypervisor, virtualization and virtual storage
  • Heterogeneous (third-party) storage support
  • Open API and automation
  • Self-service portals, service catalogs

Note that this is essentially announcing the ViPR product and program initiative with general availability slated for second half of 2013.

What is ViPR addressing'

IT and data infrastructure (server, storage, IO and networking hardware, software) challenges for traditional, virtual and cloud environments.

    • Data growth, after all, there is no such thing as an information recession with more data being generated, moved, processed, stored and retained for longer periods of time. Then again, people and data are both getting larger and living longer, for both little data and big data along with very big data.
    • Overhead and complexities associated with managing and using an expanding, homogenous (same vendor, perhaps different products) or heterogeneous (different vendors and products) data infrastructure across cloud, virtual and physical, legacy and emerging. This includes add, changes or moves, updates and upgrades, retirement and replacement along with disposition, not to mention protecting data in an expanding footprint.

      • Operations and service management, fault and alarm notification, resolution and remediation, rapid provisioning, removing complexity and cost of doing things vs. simply cutting cost and compromising service.

      What is this software defined storage stuff'

There is the buzzword aspect, and then there is the solution and business opportunity.

First the buzzword aspect and bandwagon:

      • Software defined marketing (SDM) Leveraging software defined buzzwords.
      • Software defined data centers (SDDC) Leveraging software to derive more value from hardware while enabling agility, flexibility, and scalability and removing complexity. Think the Cloud and Virtual Data Center models including those from VMware among others.
      • Software defined networking (SDN) Rather than explain, simply look at Nicira that VMware bought in 2012.
      • Software defined storage (SDS) Storage software that is independent of any specific hardware, which might be a bit broad, however it is also narrower than saying anything involving software.
      • Software defined BS (SDBS) Something that usually happens as a result when marketers and others jump on a bandwagon, in this case software defined marketing.

Note that not everything involved with software defined is BS, only some of the marketing spins and overuse. The downside to the software defined marketing and SDBS is the usual reaction of skepticism, cynicism and dismissal, so let us leave the software defined discussion here for now.

An example of software defined storage can be storage virtualization, virtual storage and storage hypervisors that are hardware independent. Note that when I say hardware independent, that also means being able to support different vendors systems. Now if you want to have some fun with the software defined storage diehards or purist, tell them that all hardware needs software and all software needs hardware, even if virtual. Further hardware is defined by its software, however lets leave sleeping dogs lay where they rest (at least for now ;)).

Storage hypervisors were a 2012 popular buzzword bingo topic with plenty of industry adoption and some customer deployment. While 2012 saw plenty of SDM buzz including SDC, SDN 2013 is already seeing an increase including software defined servers, and software defined storage.

Regardless of what you view of software defined storage, storage hypervisor, storage virtualization and virtual storage is, the primary focus and goal should be addressing business and application needs. Unfortunately, some of the discussions or debates about what is or is not software defined and related themes lose focus of what should be the core goal of enabling business and applications.


Some questions and discussion topics pertaining to ViPR:Whom is ViPRfor'

Organizations that need to scale with stability across EMC, third-party or open storage software stacks and commodity hardware. This applies to large and small enterprise, cloud service providers, managed service providers, virtual and cloud environments/

What this means for EMC hardware/platform/systems'

They can continue to be used as is, or work with ViPR or other deployment modes.

Does this mean EMC storage systems are nearing their end of life'

IMHO for the most part not yet, granted there will be some scenarios where new products will be used vs. others, or existing ones used in new ways for different things.

As has been the case for years if not decades, some products will survive, continue to evolve and find new roles, kind of like different data storage mediums (e.g. ssd, disk, tape, etc).

How does ViPR work'

ViPR functions as a control plane across the data and storage infrastructure supporting both north and southbound. northbound refers to use from or up to application servers (physical machines PM and virtual machines VMs). southbound refers target or destination storage systems. Storage systems can be traditional EMC or third-party (NetApp mentioned as part of first release), appliances, just a bunch of disks (JBOD) or cloud services.

Some general features and functions:

  • Provisioning and allocation (with automation)
  • Data and storage migration or tiering
  • Leverage scripts, templates and workbooks
  • Support service categories and catalogs
  • Discovery, registration of storage systems
  • Create of storage resource pools for host systems
  • Metering, measuring, reporting, charge or show back
  • Alerts, alarms and notification
  • Self-service portal for access and provisioning

ViPR data plane (adding data services and value when needed)

Another part is the data plane for implementing data services and access. For block and file when not needed, ViPR steps out-of-the-way leveraging the underlying storage systems or services.

Object storage access

When needed, the ViPR data plane can step in to add added services and functionality along with support object based access for little data and big data. For example, Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) services can support northbound analytic software applications running on servers accessing storage managed by ViPR.


More on the object opportunity

Other object access includes OpenStack storage part Swift, AWS S3 HTTP and REST API access. This also includes ViPR supporting EMC Atmos, VNX and Isilon arrays as southbound persistent storage in addition.

Object (and cloud) storage access example

EMC is claiming that over 250 VNX systems can be abstracted to support scaling with stability (performance, availability, capacity, economics) using ViPR. Third party storage will be supported along with software such as OpenStack Swift, Ceph and others running on commodity hardware. Note that EMC has some history with object storage and access including Centera and Atmos. Visit the micro site I have setup called www.objectstoragecenter.com and watch for more content to be updated and added there.

More on the ViPR control plane and controller

ViPR differs from some others in that it does not sit in the data path all the time (e.g. between application servers and storage systems or cloud services) to cut potential for bottlenecks.

Organizations that can use ViPR include enterprise, SMB, CSP or MSP and hosting sites. ViPR can be used in a control mode to leverage underlying storage systems, appliances and services intelligence and functionality. This means ViPR can be used to complement as oppose to treat southbound or target storage systems and services as dumb disks or JBOD.

On the other hand, ViPR will also have a suite of data services such as snapshot, replication, data migration, movement, tiering to add value for when those do not exist. Customers will be free to choose how they want to use and deploy ViPR. For example leveraging underlying storage functionality (e.g. lightweight model), or in a more familiar storage virtualization model heavy lifting model. In the heavy lifting model more work is done by the virtualization or abstraction software to create an added value, however can be a concern for bottlenecks depending how deployed.

Software defined, storage hypervisor, virtual storage or storage virtualization'

Most storage virtualization, storage hypervisors and virtual storage solutions that are hardware or software based (e.g. software defined) implemented what is referred to as in band. With in band the storage virtualization software or hardware sits between the applications (northbound) and storage systems or services (southbound).

While this approach can be easier to carry out along with add value add services, it can also introduce scaling bottlenecks depending on implementations. Examples of in band storage virtualization includes Actifio, DataCore, EMC VMAX with third-party storage, HDS with third-party storage, IBM SVC (and their V7000 Storwize storage system based on it) and NetApp Vseries among others. An advantage of in band approaches is that there should not need to be any host or server-side software requirements and SAN transparency.

There is another approach called out-of-band that has been tried. However pure out-of-band requires a management system along with agents, drivers, shims, plugins or other software resident on host application servers.

Example of generic fast path control path model

ViPR takes a different approach, one that was seen a few years ago with EMC Invista called fast path, control path that for the most part stays out of the data path. While this is like out-of-band, there should not be a need for any host server-side (e.g. northbound) software. By being a fast path control path, the virtualization or abstraction and management functions stay out of the way for data being moved or work being done.

Hmm, kind of like how management should be, there to help when needed, out-of-the-way not causing overhead other times ;).

Is EMC the first (even with Invista) to leverage fast path control path'

Actually up until about a year or so ago, or shortly after HP acquired 3PAR they had a solution called Storage Virtualization Services Platform (SVPS) that was OEMd from LSI (e.g. StorAge). Unfortunately, HP decided to retire that as opposed to extend its capabilities for file and object access (northbound) as well as different southbound targets or destination services.

Whats this northbound and southbound stuff'

Simply put, think in terms of a vertical stack with host servers (PMs or VMs) on the top with applications (and hypervisors or other tools such as databases) on top of them (e.g. north).

Northbound servers, southbound storage systems and cloud services

Think of storage systems, appliances, cloud services or other target destinations on the bottom (or south). ViPR sits in between providing storage services and management to the northbound servers leveraging the southbound storage.

What host servers can VIPR support for serving storage'

VIPR is being designed to be server agnostic (e.g. virtual or physical), along with operating system agnostic. In addition VIPR is being positioned as capable of serving northbound (e.g. up to application servers) block, file or object as well as accessing southbound (e.g. targets) block, file and object storage systems, file systems or services.

Note that a difference between earlier similar solutions from EMC have been either block based (e.g. Invista, VPLEX, VMAX with third-party storage), or file based. Also note that this means VIPR is not just for VMware or virtual server environments and that it can exist in legacy, virtual or cloud environments.

Likewise VIPR is intended to be application agnostic supporting little data, big data, very big data ( VBD) along with Hadoop or other specialized processing. Note that while VIPR will support HDFS in addition to NFS and CIFS file based access, Hadoop will not be running on or in the VIPR controllers as that would live or run elsewhere.

How will VIPR be deployed and licensed

EMC has indicated that the VIPR controller will be delivered as software that installs into a virtual appliance (e.g. VMware) running as a virtual machine (VM) guest. It is not clear when support will exist for other hypervisors (e.g. Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix/XEN, KVM or if VMware vSphere with vCenter or simply on ESXi free version). As of the announcement pre briefing, EMC had not yet finalized pricing and licensing details. General availability is expected in the second half of calendar 2013.

Keep in mind that the VIPR controller (software) runs as a VM that can be hosted on a clustered hypervisor for HA. In addition, multiple VIPR controllers can exist in a cluster to further enhance HA.

Additional Information

EMCworld 2016 EMC Hybrid and Converged Clouds Your Way

EMCworld 2016 Getting Started on Dell EMC announcements

Some questions to be addressed among others include:

  • How and where are IOs intercepted'
  • Who can have access to the APIs, what is the process, is there a developers program, SDK along with resources'
  • What network topologies are supported local and remote'
  • What happens when JBOD is used and no advanced data services exist'
  • What are the characteristics of the object access functionality'
  • What if any specific switches or data path devices and tools are needed'
  • How does a host server know to talk with its target and ViPR controller know when to intercept for handling'
  • Will SNIA CDMI be added and when as part of the object access and data services capabilities'
  • Are programmatic bindings available for the object access along with support for other APIs including IOS'
  • What are the performance characteristics including latency under load as well as during a failure or fault scenario'
  • How will EMC place Vplex and its caching model on a local and wide area basis vs. ViPR or will we see those two create some work together, if so, what will that be'

Bottom line (for now):

Good move for EMC, now let us see how they execute including driving adoption of their open APIs, something they have had success in the past with Centera and other solutions. Likewise, let us see what other storage vendors become supported or add support along with how pricing and licensing are rolled out. EMC will also have to articulate when and where to use ViPR vs. VPLEX along with other storage systems or management tools. View more at www.objectstoragecenter.com.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Storage Administrator at a retailer with 1,001-5,000 employees
We can determine “root cause analysis” internally with both EMC logging and using ViPR SRM, but I'd like more clarification with thin provisioning, such as how much space is used due to dedup factors.

What is most valuable?

The would be the VNX Solution Pack which is basically an integration of the Watch3net M&R reporting. Since we have VNX’s all over the place globally, it helps keep on top of the performance and potential issues.

How has it helped my organization?

Before, we just gathered a lot of info and sent it off to EMC if we had issues. Now we can determine “root cause analysis” internally with both EMC logging and using ViPR SRM. Armed with all that information will help make any case on what we need to show server owners what is happening with their applications.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see a little more clarification with thin provisioning. In the Data Domain solution pack doesn’t really show how much space is used due to dedup factors, and I realize that would be a tough feature to add but it would be beneficial. I have had to export our trending to an excel and create a forecast based upon those numbers. In my thinking, that should be under the solution pack and not the forecasting which makes me dig pretty deep to find what I need.

For how long have I used the solution?

I was actually a beta tester from 1.5 that came out in 2012. EMC flew an engineer out to set it up and I was on a board panel with a group to tell them what I did and didn’t like about it. It went through a few phases before it became more usable. Prosphere was heavily integrated and was much slower. As it evolved it took over the Watch3net engine which was much needed.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

Obviously I have had my issues since 1.5. In beta it was a 1.0 release. It’s only since recently they have approved that you can update all the back-end (Red Hat) yourself and then the front-end. I have always done it myself because it cost to have an engineer upgrade it. When I went from 2.5 to 3.5 SP1 was a big increase, our EMC guy helped us schedule a free upgrade. Not only did the they guide us through adding an extra VM to scale, they fixed a few minor issues that had come from previous upgrade I had done. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the differences and help.

How are customer service and technical support?

For the most part I would say a solid 8/10. I have had times where I could hear the engineers talk about how they have never seen this kind of implementation. Thus coming from a 1.5 architecture will surely make support wonder a few things. I was able to keep a few things that people pay for because I never re-deployed the product. I make sure going forward that when engineers putty and get in the GUI that they do not mess with those aspects of the application.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We had what most users had that is an EMC shop. ECC, ProSphere (short-lived) and SolarWinds. Most will do the same thing, this one is just geared for storage architecture and connectivity.

How was the initial setup?

Deploying the vApp within VMware made it an easy setup solution. However, there are lots of changes since the last deployment and I bet there is more to configure than before.

What about the implementation team?

Implementation is pretty easy. I would say the hardest part is getting the various different communities inside the organization to help add systems was the toughest. The more individual pieces you put in this application will create a better synergy. You will definitely get more out of adding all the little networking switches and remote sites than if you just do the major items.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

If you are a big company it helps to just get an ELA to accommodate for all the various hardware solutions that you can other teams put in their arsenal. They initially harvested most of the common infrastructure, now they are just adding to it and making it better.

What other advice do I have?

Just watch a demo and get EMC on the phone to schedule a WebEx with a live customer. See how they have implemented it and what results they have had.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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Systems Architect at a tech services company with 1,001-5,000 employees
Real User
ViPR SRM gives us insight into our VNX arrays that are distributed across the United States, but it doesn't permit setting up LDAPs via Web UI.

What is most valuable?

  • Graphing of LUN and disk performance
  • Alerting of certain array events (disk failure, performance issues)

How has it helped my organization?

ViPR SRM gives us insight into our VNX arrays that are distributed across the United States. If we were not using ViPR SRM we’d manually be pulling .NAR log files from each VNX and that would take hours. Optionally we would use VNX M&R ,which is not customizable.

What needs improvement?

  • New versions frequently have database schema changes that break existing customized reports
  • After each upgrade, all reports that were customized lose all changes. Have to go through each report and re-add/change columns
  • Long standing issue where underutilized hard disks will show latency up to 100,000ms. This makes alerting on disks with high latency (20ms+) impossible
  • Unable to setup LDAPs via Web UI
  • UI should support a diagnostics feature so I don’t have to SSH into the server and run diags manually
  • The documentation that explains the custom properties and values for reporting is difficult to use
  • There are loads of capacity reports that duplicate the same information. It’s difficult to figure out which reports to use
  • UI makes you drill down up to 10 levels deep to find information

For how long have I used the solution?

I've used it for 36 months.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

After upgrading to SRM 3.6, many of the reports did not have the proper graphing algorithm and were displaying incorrect data. This took approx. 6 weeks to fix. Created an “Alert” and after applying the change SRM stopped working for half a day. Started working again after some scheduled database job ran.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Frequently, we see IOPS and MB/s spikes going into millions (like 10,000,000 IOPS). This is an impossible situation for our infrastructure. This issue causes the SRM reports and alerting to stop working correctly for one or more days.

How are customer service and technical support?

EMC Technical support is generally very attentive and will escalate to EMC Engineering as needed.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Previously used EMC VNX M&R which is a lower cost product with less features.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup with EMC Professional Services was complex and took about five days, but subsequent new installs by me were completed in approx. three hours.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The original SRM install required a $25,900 installation fee via EMC Professional Services. EMC would not support the product without the fee. Newer installs can be installed by the customer.

SRM pricing was rolled into the VNX 7600 array pricing; I don’t know how much it costs. Was quoted $6,000 for VNX 5300.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

What other advice do I have?

This product has a steep learning curve. Setting up monitoring for a VNX is not that difficult. Changing existing reports becomes more challenging, and creating your own custom reports is difficult. Also, reports are buggy, some columns are blank.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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