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Dell EMC 'backs' Huawei open-source management disrupter

'Compete on products, not management interface'

LinuxCon Berlin Huawei today announced OpenSDS, an open-source project to replace vendor-specific storage controllers with the weight of enterprise and external storage number-one Dell EMC behind it.

It’s understood OpenSDS was presented to Linux Foundation reps on a recent visit to China.

The idea is that vendors’ products would plug into one side of the finished OpenSDS and third parties’ tools and software, such as Docker, Kubernetes or OpenStack, into the other.

OpenSDS aims to replace the litany of proprietary management frameworks underpinning storage. It's analogous to the Eclipse Framework in software tools from the 2000s.

Eclipse eradicated an entire culture of proprietary IDE frameworks for something that was open and extensible. Eclipse not only brought down barriers to development for IDE plug-in providers, it also saved the IDE makers the cost and time to constantly update their individual frameworks' IDE plumbing.

Cameron Bahar, Huawei storage senior vice president and global chief technology officer, told The Reg at LinuxCon, Berlin, that some storage vendors have as many as 37 storage management frameworks in their own companies - although he wouldn’t name names.

Some vendors have open-sourced elements of their own management tools and drivers over the years, but they have generally aimed at solving specific issues and have followed lobbying by big names such as Intel.

With OpenSDS, however, Huawei wants to sweep away this piecemeal approach.

Dell EMC is understood to have this week gained legal clearance to join OpenSDS. A formal announcement on all new members is planned for a future date.

"All the vendors are talking," Bahar said - adding there are no commitments yet.

He stressed the importance of customer involvement in OpenSDS. "This is not just a vendor-driven effort - we are in discussions with enterprises and telcos. We are inviting customers and vendors to join this effort."

For those customers, he said, OpenSDS promised greater openness and choice. "Customers will get to manage multi-vendor and multi-orchestration frameworks like Kubernetes, OpenStack and Mesos."

The point is to get vendor support and bring lots of vendors together, the CTO said. “There’s an opportunity for Dell EMC and others that would like people to interoperate.”

Bahar said he reckoned more storage firms would join OpenSDS once there is a critical mass of names.

This would mean less lock-in through the storage management layer and genuine competition among firms on the capabilities and features of their storage hardware and software rather than the controller.

Also, it would mean customers could quickly take advantage of new trends moving through storage, such as containers and cloud, as developers could easily target the open framework rather than waiting on the storage vendors themselves to update their own proprietary software.

OpenSDS would define the interfaces, common management APIs and simple orchestration that would be made generally available to the community and updated on an ongoing basis through open source. The framework would provide the discovery, provisioning and orchestration and potentially be capable of talking to virtualized, containerised and bare metal environments.

Two open-source projects that would immediately benefit are Kubernetes and OpenStack.

Kubernetes must be implemented differently for each vendor's storage controllers despite the fact that it is solving the same issue of persistent storage. Using OpenSDS, just a single agent could be developed. OpenStack, meanwhile, does have the Manilla and Cinder projects for file share and volumes but lacks basic storage management functionality for discovery, configuration and management. Again, a single agent could be built through OpenSDS that would solve this. ®

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