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VMWorld notebook: Symantec prepares Storage Foundation 6 with primary dedupe

LAS VEGAS – Storage-related notes from this week’s VMWorld 2011:

Symantec has done a lot lately to try and catch up to smaller rivals on virtual machine support for its backup products. Now it is ready to support virtualization in its storage management products, as well as data deduplication for primary data.

Symantec is preparing to give Storage Foundation its first major release of in five years. The main focus for the overdue upgrade will be support for mixed environments, which means virtual servers and the cloud as well as physical servers.

The Storage Foundation 6 launch will come in a month or two, but Symantec senior VP of storage management Anil Chakravarthy filled me in on a few details. He said the goal is to allow customers to run Storage Foundation in any operating system and on any hypervisor.

“We’re taking the existing products [in Storage Foundation suite] and orienting them to mixed environments,” he said. “Customers can mix and match the applications on a combination of platforms.”

Symantec is moving ApplicationHA into the Storage Foundation suite and that will also get an upgrade, along with Cluster File System and Veritas Operations Manager. ApplicationHA has been a standalone product until now.

Chakravarthy said Storage Foundation will enable primary dedupe at the file system level, and work with any NAS or SAN systems. He also claims Symantec will get more granularity than storage array vendors who have or are adding primary dedupe.

“We’ve had it in our backup products,” Chakravarthy said. “Now we’ve taken the dedupe engine and built it into the file system for primary data. Putting it at the file system level gives us granularity that you cannot have from deduping at the array level.”

One area that Symantec is staying out of for now is sub-LUN automated tiering. Storage Foundation already has what it calls Smart Tiering at the LUN level, but Chakravarthy said sub-LUN tiering is best handled at the array. …

One of the less publicized features in vSphere 5 is native support in ESX of Intel’s Open Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Naturally, Intel claims this support is a big deal.

Intel announced Open FCoE last January, claiming it will do for FCoE what software initiators did for iSCSI. That is, it will enable FCoE on standard NICs without additional hardware adapters. VMware vSphere 5 customers can use a standard 10-Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) adapter for FCoE connectivity instead of a more costly Converged Network Adapter (CNA). Intel supports Open FCoE on its Ethernet Server Adapter X520 and 82599 10 Gb Ethernet Controller cards.

Intel’s approach to FCoE requires key partners to support its drivers. Windows and Linux operating systems support FCoE, but earlier versions of vSphere did not. Sunil Ahluwalia, senior producct line manager for Intel’s LAN Access Division, said vSphere 5 customers running Intel’s supported adapters don’t have to add specialized Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) to their networks. He said the concept is similar to Microsoft’s adding the iSCSI initiator to its stack in the early days of iSCSI, eliminating the need for TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) cards.

“We’ve seen that model be successful with iSCSI, and we’re taking the same steps now with FCoE,” he said. “Once you get it native in a kernel, it comes as a feature in the operating system and frees up the network card to be purely a network card.”

FCoE adoption has been slow, but Ahluwalia said he expects it to pick up after 10 GbE becomes dominant in networks. “Customers are looking at moving to 10-gig first,” he said. “As they roll out their next infrastructure to 10-gig and a unified network, FCoE and iSCSI will be additional benefits.” …

The primary data reduction landscape should start heating up soon. Besides Symantec adding primary dedupe to Storage Foundation, IBM and Dell are close to integrating dedupe and compression technologies they picked up through acquisitions last year.

A source from IBM said it will announce integration with Storwize compression on multiple IBM storage systems this fall, and Dell is planning to do the same with its Ocarina deduplication technology over the coming months.

In a recent interview with and Storage magazine editors, Dell storage VP Darren Thomas said Dell products using Ocarina’s dedupe technology will start showing up late this year with more coming in 2012.

“We’ve been integrating Ocarina,” he said. “It will start appearing in multiple places. You’ll see a [product] drop this year and more than likely a couple more next year.”

Sneak peaks of EMC’s Project Lightning server-side PCIe flash cache product showed up in several EMC-hosted VMWorld sessions. The product appeared in demos and tech previews, and EMC VP of VMware Strategic Alliance Chad Sakac said it will be in beta soon and scheduled for general availability by the end of the year. EMC first discussed Project Lightning at EMC World in May but gave no shipping date.

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