VMAX SP – Block-Storage-as-a-Service

By | May 15, 2012

Big announcement today. EMC will deliver a derivative of it’s Enterprise block storage platform, the VMAX, that is designed specifically for Service Provider customers. This has been announced in a release today, with more details to follow at EMC World next week, with general availability expected in Q3 this year.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been responsible for identifying the first customer, Colt Technology Services here in Europe, for this new SP-specific offering and now that the embargo on talking about this has been lifted, I wanted to share a few thoughts and give a quick preview of what’s coming and why it’s good thing for SPs. You can find the full press release here and a video from a great EMC customer, Colt, who have been helping with the development of the offering here.

Before I do that, it’s worth quickly revisiting a bit of context, which is this: There’s no doubt some out there there will be saying ‘why bother?, isn’t storage for Cloud Service Providers all about Amazon S3 and similar services’? Well, the answer is ‘it depends’. If you refer to my previous posts about the Stratification of SP Cloud Computing Services and Block and Object Storage as a Service, you’ll see that this is a rather idealistic viewpoint.

The reality today is most applications that organisations want to move to the Cloud today are ‘legacy’ applications that are installed on operating system instances rather than modern PasS infrastructure and expect to see their infrastructure presented in rather traditional ways.

It’s also pretty obvious, that even the most modern PaaS or IaaS platforms require an underlying infrastructure upon which to run. Wouldn’t it be good if this was easier to manage and easier create a variety of different services on. How about having a simple mechanism to enable you to create differing service offerings for customers with differing requirements and differing budgets to support them? I think this would be a step forward.

From a commercial perspective, EMC believes that there’s a huge opportunity in block storage infrastructure for Service Providers in order to support this trend of moving existing enterprise and legacy applications to the Cloud, so you can immediately get why this is something that they would focus on!

Enough context anyway, let’s get into the detail of what the characteristics are that make a product good for use in a Service Provider environment, and how these been engineered into the new VMAX SP edition?

Multi-Tenancy – the ability for different customers or even organisational units within individual customers to be segregated so that they are isolated from other organisations and have control and reporting capabilities that cover only the services that have been provided to them. More complex than you might think as factors such as the creation of policies for sharing of resources that limit or enable performance need to be taken into account

Web-portal for simplified self service provisioning – enables less skilled users to quickly and easily provision services from the platform, including tenant self provisioning

Rest API for reporting, monitoring and metering – a programatic web-services interface that enables easy integration with the service providers existing portal, orchestration and billing infrastructure, which are often collectively known as the providers operational support systems or OSS

Provisioning Intelligence Engine – embedded orchestration to simplify and accelerate provisioning and de-provisioning tasks with automated workflows

Service Level Catalog – the ability to create a catalogue of different service offerings with differing characteristics and expose this via an interface such as a portal or an API. Includes preconfigured service offerings.

Advanced QoS – Linked with the service catalogue and multi-tenancy features, and what I’d regard as the killer value-add in an SP environment, which is the ability to apply Quality of Service policies to the infrastructure to reflect the requirements of different service offerings and enforce these via controls on front-end IOPS and bandwidth.

All these features are being built into this new product offering for SPs.

Where this leads is that Service Providers will be able to offer a catalogue of Block Storage Services with differing IO and/or bandwidth characteristics which will be delivered on a platform which is very cost effective at the level of scale typically seen within Service Providers.

Inside, the platform leverages EMC’s widely deployed FAST/VP technology, but this will be simplified through the new provisioning portal and embedded automation features.

Feedback from the pilot customer that I’ve been working with has been fantastic, but I’d love to hear what you think about the product when more details are announced next week.

One thought on “VMAX SP – Block-Storage-as-a-Service

  1. Giancarlo Giomi

    Thanks Ian.
    Very good summary!
    I’m totally agree with you regarding the strong value that VMAX SP could bring to Service Provider delivery platform. 
    I’m happy to discover that Colt will be the first in Europe. They are very far-seeing and Emc too!!


Leave a Reply