A few weeks ago, “Software Defined Storage” and “Open” were all the news in the “cloud” industry as EMC announced they had an “Open” “Software Defined Storage” solution. I heard the news and rolled my eyes. Yeah, right. … but I was busy with real life things and didn’t even have time to read the announcement, much less any of the buzz around it.

Until today…

I’ve read all the buzzwords and hype, and still I’m not entirely sure what they’re offering. One keyword that’s missing from everything is “POSIX” an acronym for “Portable Operating System Interface” which is an IEEE standard that is an open, operating system independant standard api for filesystem interaction. It does appear that they’re offering yet another object based api, nfs, cifs, and iSCSI as well as S3 and Swift compatibility, but it’s unclear from their documentation as to whether those are north facing or just south.

What is “Software Defined Storage”?

Enterprise Management Associates, Inc., whose paper reads as if they are a paid shill for EMC would like SDS to be defined in such a way that their definition aligns almost perfectly with EMC’s product announcement (http://www.emc.com/collateral/analyst-reports/ema-emc-vipr.pdf), even Wikipedia seems to have followed the commercial shill lines and left true software defined storage at the bottom of a bullet list.

Software defined storage is any storage where the logic that defines that storage is abstracted into a software layer. Using that same software layer, therefore, it should be possible to define the physical storage in multiple ways. SDS is a tool or set of tools that allows you to use software to design a storage system that best fits your use case.

What is “Open”?

When I first got in to the computer industry, there were software producers and consumers and there was a huge paywall between the two. As a consumer of software, there was nothing open about it. Some features were documented, but most were not. File structures, interfaces, memory models, even the user interfaces were proprietary and would be changed between releases to ensure that any competitor’s products that had managed to decypher them and integrated their product would break. Big software vendors really had no interest in a little beauty supply distributor in just three states. Their focus was on the Fortune 500 and if you wanted to report a bug, you were welcome to, but it wasn’t likely to have any resources applied to it unless you were someone like Boeing.

Today, with open source, anyone can become involved in the production cycle, even without programming skills. I hang out on IRC and, in my spare time, help people understand GlusterFS. I look at the industry trends and communicate directly with the developers that produce the code. Together we brainstorm over new ideas or bugs. We, the consumers and the producers, are all part of a community. That’s not just some buzzword but it’s actual interaction. Some of the developers have become my friends. This is “open”.

“Open” is a breakdown of the barrier between the producers and the consumers. “Open” is where the person (or company) with the problem to solve is involved in defining the solution to that problem. That’s true for open source software and also open standards.

One company, be it EMC, Microsoft, VMWare, Amazon, etc., telling you what’s an “open” solution, is not open. That’s proprietary by it’s very nature.

EMC’s product has a pretty GUI, it may indeed be software defined storage. It is not, however, “open”.