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XenSource eyes enterprise storage

Xensource has upped the ante in its battle with VMware for mindshare in the server virtualization market with the announcement that it will incorporate technology from Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation into its XenEnterprise virtualization software. XenEnterprise will incorporate the Symantec technology to directly manage Fibre Channel (FC) storage resources, and will include support for Symantec's Veritas Volume Manager (VVM), which will provide multipath support as well as volume management and snapshot functionality. According to XenSource, the first version of XenEnterprise with the new Symantec features should be released in the fourth quarter of 2007.

"The agreement is a good move for both parties, Symantec and XenSource," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst, the StorageIO Group, Stillwater, MN. "If you look at Symantec in the Unix days, they became a de facto standard with VVM and this should continue that trend, especially in virtualization."

John Bara, VP of marketing at XenSource, says the first pieces of Veritas Storage Foundation to be integrated with XenEnterprise will provide storage management and storage virtualization functionality. The two companies intend to eventually provide a full set of data protection features.

Underscoring the companies' commitment to the relationship is the fact that several Symantec engineers have moved to XenSource, either on loan or officially on staff. Ramana Jonnala is a 13-year Veritas (and Symantec) veteran who's now VP of engineering at XenSource. "Many XenSource customers were already using Symantec [Veritas] NetBackup and had requested Fibre Channel functionality through the VVM technology," says Jonnala.

XenSource says the addition of Symantec's storage functionality will help push XenSource into corporate data centers because multipathing offers a level of integrated scalability not currently offered by rivals such as VMware, says Bara. VMware provides this functionality through third-party products, including Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation running on guest instances under VMware, at an extra cost.

The integration should allow XenSource users to more easily manage the dynamic migration of virtual Xen nodes from one system to another. These nodes are often attached to LUNs that aren't visible to other nodes (via LUN masking). The Symantec functionality will allow a manager to switch the LUN masking from one node to another without having to use the storage or switch management interface directly.

It's unclear what the long-term benefits of XenSource's integration with Symantec will be. For example, Schulz questions whether Veritas Storage Foundation will be incorporated into all of the guest operating systems supported by XenSource, and whether prices for XenEnterprise will go up when the additional functionality is added.

Still, the synergy between the two companies could make XenSource an easier fit in corporate data centers, and make it easier for storage administrators to support virtualization.

--Logan G. Harbaugh

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