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Symantec to fold planned S4 object storage software into FileStore

Beth Pariseau, Senior News Writer

Symantec Corp. has confirmed that it will fold its planned Symantec Secure Scalable Storage (S4) object

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storage file system into the FileStore product it launched last October.

This statement from Symantec followed reports last week that the S4 project is being totally scrapped.

"It's important to note that none of our products are being discontinued. The functionality of some of our solutions might be combined with others, but that's always the case as we constantly look for opportunities to integrate our offerings more and more," a Symantec spokesperson wrote in a statement emailed to SearchStorage.com. In a subsequent email, the spokesperson added more detail with the following comment:

We're folding the functionality of certain solutions with others, just to further clarify that S4 technology was discussed as a technology as part of the FileStore launch last fall. We anticipate that the core technology will be incorporated into the FileStore platform later this year as we mentioned at the time of the FileStore announcement. We are very excited about the ramifications of S4 technology to the industry. While working with beta customers on the technology, we discovered that the primary use case is cloud/REST workloads. We realized that our FileStore platform could handle REST workloads quite well. In many ways, FileStore is the ideal REST platform – 1) it's highly scalable: our REST implementation will allow scaling to billions of files. 2) it's feature-rich: replication, snapshots, NBU, tiering, etc.; 3) it's high-performance with the top SPECsfs rank.

Thus, we have decided to make FileStore our core platform for all workloads and to migrate key S4 functionality, such as REST and multi-tenancy, onto FileStore.

There are some differences between the two products as they've been previously discussed. The original FileStore version scales to 16 nodes and 2 PB of total storage, while S4 was slated to support up to 256 mixed OS nodes for multi-tiered application-based high availability and disaster recovery (DR). The plan according to Symantec is to scale FileStore further using S4 IP. This is a different plan than Symantec revealed last October when it launched FileStore and said S4 would follow this year as a separate product.

S4/FileStore consolidation comes amid layoffs, professional services reorg

Symantec has spent much of the last two weeks leading into the Symantec Vision conference that kicks off today in Las Vegas fending off speculation that it's preparing to divest from the storage business entirely after reports of layoffs across multiple data storage software divisions. Layoffs affected engineers working on Veritas file system, Backup Exec System Recovery (BESR), Enterprise Vault and Storage Foundation. The company has also issued a statement on its website reiterating its commitment to its storage products.

Meanwhile, reports of shakeups within Symantec continue to surface, including a memo sent to channel partners late last week that indicated Symantec plans to shift its professional services to channel partners.

Backup software competitor CommVault Systems Inc. has also been on the hunt for Symantec NetBackup customers since the release of Simpana 8. One user, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) storage architect Michael Passe, said his company made the switch from NetBackup to Simpana last year after having been a Veritas customer since 1998. Among the issues Passe said pushed him toward CommVault was that he felt his direct sales rep was pushing him toward channel partners, despite a long history of being a direct customer. "I have a very capable technical staff here and I don't see the need or value in a VAR other than them trying to sell me services I don't require," he said.

In a blog post about the Veritas file system layoffs, Enterprise Strategy Group founder and senior analyst Steve Duplessie said much of the market has moved on from the products that were the first claim to fame for Veritas. "This is a signal that those markets, now 20 plus years old, are finally in maintenance mode and those services are to most likely be off-shored so the company can milk whatever profits are left from the dwindling install base," Duplessie wrote of the Veritas file system restructuring.

Analysts see pressure mounting on other parts of the Symantec business, especially following the acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s ZFS by Oracle Corp., which is Symantec's largest file system partner. Symantec has also had to contend with the increasing popularity of VMware, which brings its own clustered file system, VMFS, to the table. Users now have more choices than ever before about how to deploy data protection, and Symantec must now compete against disk array and appliance vendors offering disk-based backup alternatives in addition to traditional data backup software rivals.

Andrew Reichman, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said this pressure is heightened by the impact of a down economy on customer purchasing priorities.

"It's bad news for everybody, but competitively speaking, some vendors have been able to differentiate themselves as having a material business impact," he said. "Symantec probably has better technology in many cases, but in a down economy, good enough is good enough, and a technical advantage doesn't replace a product with business and marketing momentum."

Whatever Symantec's general challenges, Reichman said he is unconvinced that either FileStore or the hypothetical S4 product will be a game changer any time soon.

"Symantec will need to focus on major hardware partnerships and tight execution to capture a meaningful share of the high-growth file storage market or the yet-to-be-defined object storage market," he said.

Still, the news of changes within the company has some customers asking more questions as they plan purchases.

"We are about to deploy some Veritas Clusters," wrote Peter Lang, systems engineer at the Independence, Mo.-based Government Employees Health Association (GEHA), in an email to SearchStorage.com. "These clusters are the heart of a critical new system here at my company. I will definitely follow up with more research on that product line."


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