Storage

EMC and smaller players planning open-source storage middleware

EMC explained its roadmap for open-source storage software. Meanwhile, smaller companies are going where EMC won't tread.

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EMC Corp. recently emphasized its open-source container strategy, but the company isn't neglecting open-source projects for its bread-and-butter products in the storage industry.

Containers are like fences that let applications or processes run undisturbed on virtual machines. Many of EMC's current and upcoming open-source contributions involve containers for storage products, with a focus on integrating the storage — especially software-defined storage — into other company's applications.

SEE: Developers like what they see with container technology, so far (ZDNet)

Virtual hardware environments require administrators and developers to keep their code relatively lightweight, explained Brian Gallagher, president of EMC's cloud platforms division. Inexplicably, "There are Linux operating systems running in the cloud that have floppy disk drivers," he said, only half joking.

To help, "You're certainly going to see more movement in open-source from EMC in this division," explained Joshua Bernstein, vice-president of emerging technology at EMC.

The company has been quietly updating its community website, emccode.com, with a roadmap via the GitHub code repository. That's a long way from when the old hardware-centric EMC began its storage diversification push more than a decade ago, at the time being ribbed as "Expensive, Monolithic, Closed" by then-new storage networking competitor Sun Microsystems.

Bernstein said EMC's early successes in open-source storage include Rex-Ray, which links containers to storage, and Polly, which provides storage resource management to virtual machines. His team will keep churning out open-source storage container projects, including some contributed by customers, as long as the container market keeps developing. "The biggest challenge right now is there's a lot of fragmentation in the market. There's no clear winner," he observed.

There are also open-source contributions for EMC Isilon, which is a network-attached storage product line. These include a simulator and software development interfaces.

SEE: Network-attached storage: The smart person's guide

However, Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC is not planning to open-source its legacy non-virtual storage applications, Bernstein said. There isn't enough market demand, he said.

Smaller organizations fill that role. Examples include Openfiler for block-based storage-area networking, FreeNAS for file-based network-attached storage, and Ceph for object storage. Small companies such Backblaze, in San Mateo, Calif., and Open Source Storage, in Campbell, Calif., provide open hardware architectures.

"You don't have to use these big companies. Open source is a cheap alternative," Open Source Storage CEO Eren Niazi asserts. His system is inspired by and deployed to the likes of Facebook. The company is planning to release a large amount open-source middleware in the next couple of months, he said.

Niazi is also working on something out of left field — it's a new endeavor called Open Source Group. "It's going to be a social platform for geeks and for programmers where they can collaborate online," he said. There will also be a gaming element to motivate coders to use the site, Niazi said.

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About Evan Koblentz

Evan Koblentz began covering enterprise IT news during the dot-com boom times of the late 1990s. He recently published a book, "Abacus to smartphone: The evolution of mobile and portable computers". He is director of Vintage Computer Federation, a 50...

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