This post is part of a series covering the EMC Free and Frictionless software products.
Go to the first post for a table of contents.

In my last post, I shared my pet project tracking the Twitter activity of the EMC Elect at EMC World 2016. One of the report elements was the ever-popular word cloud showing the popularity of words used in the tweets. One of the more popular words (behind the obvious like EMC, EMCWorld, Dell, Session and Vegas) was “Unity”. Which is not surprising given EMC took the wraps off a new mid-range storage product called Unity.

Unity is the evolutionary replacement of the VNX line, which in turn replaced the CLARiiON; I’ve lost track how many of these arrays I’ve had over the years, I’d guess it’s north of 50. The overall product line heritage is one of the most widely deployed storage arrays out there. Of all the enhancements in Unity, over its predecessor, none excites me more than the new HTML5 interface. Not just because it’s a better interface for the Unity product, but it (hopefully) signals a new wave of management tools from EMC that will all be HTML5.

CLARiiON-FC4700.pngI’ve been around long enough I can remember when the CLARiiON didn’t have a web based GUI. Think early 2000’s, (2002 I believe) when Navisphere was a thick client installed on your Windows workstation. Installing the client seemed so constraining then, in fact, we just built a dedicated (physical) server to run the Navisphere client to remote into. I remember my excitement talking to our EMC Sales Engineers about the forthcoming FLARE upgrade that would provide a web-based Navisphere. So much in fact that I signed up for pre-release testing (I was running development labs at the time, so we weren’t ‘production’). I recall to this day that FLARE upgrade because it was incredibly painful and incurred some outages (again, pre-release code).

In the 15 years since that upgrade, struggling with the Jave JRE client configurations necessary for the web based Navisphere, then Unisphere; not even mentioning the constant performance frustrations; I’ve frequently regretted being a voice asking for a web GUI. Especially given my team, and every other team I talked to, simply setup a dedicated virtual server to act as the Unisphere client. So here I am again, excited over the concept of a HTML5 interface that requires no client, is cross platform compatible and maybe, even, works on mobile devices.

Unlike the past 15 years, I don’t have to wait until it’s time to purchase a new storage array to explore the new GUI. EMC has provided multiple avenues to explore the HTML5 interface. The first is the Unity Simulator, which provides an environment to play with the new HTML5 Unity Unisphere. Take note, this only appears to work on Windows, and it’s not going to let you provision storage; but it certainly is a quick way to play with the UI. Download it here (registration required), and here are some screenshots.

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If you just want to take a peek, or do not have a Windows machine handy; there are some great videos online, like the EMC Unity – Unisphere Overview, want more: search YouTube for EMC Unity. 

However, if you’re like me, and want to not only play with the UI but be able to provision storage, assign it to hosts, explore VVOL support and create NAS shared; you’re in luck! Because with the release of Unity comes “UnityVSA” (Unity Virtual Storage Array), a virtualized version of the Unity array that runs on vSphere. Under EMC’s Free and Frictionless initiative, the UnityVSA is available in a community edition free of charge with no time bombs. You can also purchase UnityVSA, as it’s a fully supported and production grade, Software Defined version of Unity. So as part of my ongoing series on Free and Frictionless, I’m going to dive into the UnityVSA, record my deployment and testing, and share my thoughts and opinions.

Next post, we’ll deploy the OVA for UnityVSA.