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Symantec, Citrix take on VMware in storage management

While Symantec continues to support VMware, it's also teaming up with Citrix's XenServer to challenge the use of VMFS for storage management.

LAS VEGAS -- Symantec Corp. is extending its partnership with Citrix Systems Inc. by offering a combination of its Storage Foundation storage management software with Citrix's XenServer hypervisor. Symantec introduced the combined product, called Veritas Virtual Infrastructure, today at its Symantec Vision conference.

Under an arrangement with Citrix disclosed last year, Symantec has allowed the XenServer hypervisor to use Storage Foundation for storage management. Now Symantec executives say the Veritas Virtual Infrastructure product will be a better approach than VMware Inc.'s Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) for server virtualization in large environments. According to Rob Soderberry, senior vice president of Symantec's storage and availability management group, "Today's [VMware] solutions force guest OS images to be put in one big bucket, called VMFS."

Using a virtual file system to represent hosts is fine in a test and development environment, but, Soderberry said, "There's no longer a correlation between the guest [host] and the storage volume. It's very different from the physical world, and large data center environments typically prefer block-based access to storage."

VMware offers block-level access through Raw Device Mode. It also offers some of its data migration features previously tied to VMFS through RDM "virtual mode," as well as N_port ID virtualization integrations with host bus adapters. Still, VMFS remains the most common method to access storage with VMware.

Since VMware released its Storage VMotion application last year, there has been talk that VMware was competing with storage vendors, and Symantec executives have been the most outspoken on this issue. Bruce McCorkendale, an engineer in the office of the chief technology officer for Symantec, told last month that, "We do compete with [VMFS], and we think we can do better."

Soderberry said Storage Foundation can beat VMware in offering granular management for storage provisioning, snapshots and replication, mirroring of data across heterogeneous arrays, and dynamic multipathing.

While XenServer still trails VMware in market share by a wide margin -- an estimated 5% of the market compared to 60% for VMware -- at least one administrator is thinking along the same lines as Symantec. During a recent podcast, Credit Suisse software analyst Phillip Winslow told a Wall Street audience that the financial services giant's IT architects are shying away from ESX in favor of XenServer, partly because of storage management issues.

"It's an unfortunate frustration with the ESX environment, learning that these virtual machines need the full storage allocation applied to them," said Leslie Muller, a former Credit Suisse senior technologist, during the podcast. "If the virtual machine is going to need 100 GB of disk space, it really takes 100 GB. Across hundreds and hundreds of virtual machines, the amount of storage on the back end is phenomenal. It's putting enormous pressure on us just growing out that storage platform."

Credit Suisse plans to run VMware's ESX alongside Citrix's XenServer and Microsoft's Hyper-V, depending on which workload needs to be virtualized. But that brings up another issue: managing virtual servers from different vendors. According to a recent report by Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker, "Customers are looking to solve their storage management challenges in a hybrid environment -- virtual and physical. They do not want to manage another IT silo that runs on its own and diminishes the value of virtualization."


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