During the week of May 5th, EMC held its fast-growing user conference in Las Vegas, while just down the strip the Interop 2013 event was also underway. Lacking an ability to clone myself, I did my best to attend both, in the process actively supporting the local contingent of taxi drivers and putting in more than a few miles of walking (not sure my shoes will ever be the same). In short, both events were heavily focused on programmability of network and storage – two of the three “legs” of the IT infrastructure stool, the last being servers. The big news from EMC at its event was ViPR, a shiny new approach to Software Defined Storage, and Interop was dominated once again by talk of Software Defined Networking. More on Interop in a subsequent post, but here’s my take on EMC World 2013.
The EMCWorld 2013 event started first, kicking off with the news that EMC had built, trialed, and released a new virtualization layer called ViPR (pronounced “viper”). The name does actually stand for something, but it’s so abstract that it’s not worthy of mention (plus I was sworn to secrecy). Viper sounds cool, so ViPR it is. But seriously – this is not just a rebranding of storage virtualization. It is a true software-defined architecture, with a services layer, a controller layer, northbound APIs, and a promise of true multi-vendor support on the southbound side. Now let’s be honest here – this is an EMC-centric story – there was nary a whisper on standardization, though there were fervent promises of multi-vendor support. But storage does indeed need to come along to the programmability party if VMware’s grander vision of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) is every truly going to take flight. For EMC’s part, they did it right – built it out, found early adopter customers (CSC, UBS) and saw it through into production deployments. So the solution is real, not just vaporware (or should that be ViPRware??).
A little off to the side of this big event was a parallel release by the Infrastructure Management team that will be of interest to network and infrastructure managers. This latest Software Assurance Suite release included a new consolidated GUI built using the thin, HTML5 frameworks originating from acquiree Watch4net. There’s also a very cool new Smarts feature called Watchlist, which consolidates availability, performance, and configuration management data to present health, notifications, change history, compliance status, and impact for devices, groups of elements – even service groupings. This is great progress towards business-aligned operations, and is a clear value-add for anyone using the EMC management platform.
I was asked to host a BoF session on Converged Operations Management as part of the conference program. Not surprisingly, the largest contingent was comprised of storage managers, but there were also many virtual systems managers. Network managers were scarce. While a significant number of attendees indicated that they were trying to move towards converged, cross-domain operations, two key frustrations quickly emerged in the conversation. First, many expressed serious challenges finding qualified cross-domain generalists to staff the function. The two most practical answers were to hire junior folks that had training in one technology domain and put them through cross-domain OJT, and to look for folks that have had to wear multiple hats (by necessity) while working in smaller IT shops. The second challenge was that there didn’t seem to be any consensus on what tools could deliver the operational views necessary for supporting a converged team. Some had built their own, many were focused on vCenter Operations, and some were using a mishmash of disconnected tools. Clearly we can do better, as an industry, and make sure that management tools are not a barrier to this important evolutionary progression.
As always, the time spent talking with management product experts and real-world practitioners is invaluable in keeping my own research well grounded. But next year, if these two events happen in parallel, maybe I’ll hire a telepresence robot, like the ones you see being used for telemedicine or remote learning. Maybe cloning will have been perfected. A Harry Potter-esque time turner could do the trick. But most likely, I’ll just wear out another pair of shoes.