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Kiss storage heterogeneity goodbye if HP-Symantec merger occurs

Over the last few weeks, storage insiders have been abuzz with speculation that a merger between HP and Symantec is imminent. Whether such talks are occurring, I can not definitively say, but if it does occur, the whole corporate world might as well kiss goodbye any hopes it had of creating and managing a heterogeneous storage environment.

Obviously, I’m exaggerating a bit. Kissing heterogeneity goodbye won’t happen the day such a deal is signed (if it occurs), and it probably won’t ever completely happen. HP and Symantec will likely both pledge that heterogeneous support will remain part of their product roadmaps. And, it’s likely that is true. However, one can almost bet that when it comes time to prioritize which storage products are tested first in conjunction with future releases of Symantec’s Veritas storage software that HP’s storage products will find their way to the head of the line.

More disconcerting is what Symantec’s acquisition by HP (or whoever they are acquired by or merge with) would mean for the future of heterogeneous storage environments in general. At one time, Symantec was on the vanguard of supporting an enterprise heterogeneous storage environment. Yet, now no one is really shocked or even appears overly concerned when Symantec is mentioned as a candidate for an acquisition or merger by what is traditionally considered a storage hardware vendor.

This mindset is testimony to changing user concerns and priorities. It used to be that storage hardware was the primary cost in user data center. Not anymore. Now, it is the management of the storage hardware — even if a user buys all of the hardware from the same storage vendor.

The complexity associated with managing storage hardware from multiple different vendors has become a mind-boggling exercise. While at one time it may have been worthwhile to spend the extra time and money to verify if an HP-UX server worked with an IBM storage system, now it is questionable if that is still the case. Instead I sense an increased willingness on the part of users to pay a premium to buy all of their storage hardware and software from one vendor and avoid checking multiple different support matrixes that using heterogeneous environments requires.

The looming acquisition or merger of Symantec, regardless of by who, signals the re-emergence of an old systems management philosophy. Companies no longer want a one trick pony for their storage management needs, even if that one trick pony manages heterogeneous storage environments. Instead more companies appear to want a return to simpler times where they buy all of their storage hardware and software from one vendor that all work nicely together. Let’s just hope that if companies have to revert back to this philosophy, that it works better this time than it did in the past.

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I disagree, not about the fact that if HP and Symantec merge that there will be a net negative effect on Symantec's support of non-HP sotrage, that I'm sure will be the case. It's the conclusion you are drawing from this that I disagree with. Right now, controlling storage costs is a big deal in most shops. There are a number of reasons for this including the fact that it's just such a big part of the IT budget these days, and getting bigger all the time. It's also the fact that the hardware isn't what's growing the fastest, it's a management costs. But, I think that the way that most shops are looking to resolve this isn't by going back to buying everything from a single vendor, though we may see some of that in the short term. I think that most shops are looking at storage virtualization to address the problem. Storage virtualization addresses the business problems we have with storage in a couple of ways. 1. It will drive down the cost of physical storage by making storage even more of a commodity than it is today. 2. It will create a single point of management for all of the different kinds of storage, thus reducing the cost of management. So, as you can see, storage virtualization attacks both the issues, the cost of the hardware, as well as the management costs. However, care will need to be exercised by anyone heading into the storage virualization world. There are all kinds of possible stumbling blocks out there for the unwary storage team trying to implement storage virualization. For example, if you are currently using replication, you need to move away from array based replication. Why? Simple, you don't want to have to know/manage the array, so the replication needs to be part of the virtualization engine, or some third party replication tool that will work with your virtualization engine, otherwise, you will still need to understand the array based tools and you then lose some of point #2 above. That's just one example of the potential pitfalls involved. So, storage virtualization is, in my opinion, the future solution to some of the business problems we face with the implementation of storage but finding the right solution is going to take some time, and some careful planning. --joerg
Is it just me, or is SYMC not primarily a security vendor? Is the idea here that HP would acquire symc for the backup/storage and spin off the security business?
Would be interesting if indeed the buyout was just the storage portion of SYMC (essentially, the old Veritas).... though most of the real $$$ growth is probably on the security side (at least until MSFT finally gets its act together). HP already resells Veritas clustering (VxCS ~= MC/ServiceGuard) and filesystem virtualization (VxVM ~= HP LVM). Would HP then drop its own Data Protector (f/k/a OmniBack), in favor of NetBackup / Backup Exec?