Symantec offers subscription-priced Storage Foundation for Amazon cloud storage

Symantec is offering a version of Storage Foundation for managing Amazon's storage attached to its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) hosts, along with a similar version of Endpoint Protection.

Symantec Corp. today unveiled a new subscription-priced version of its Storage Foundation storage management software for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) customers, allowing organizations to manage Amazon's storage attached to EC2 hosts.

Symantec Veritas Storage Foundation Basic and Symantec Endpoint Protection security software are available as custom Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) for a monthly flat fee of $4.99 per instance plus an hourly rate when the AMIs are used.

The Veritas Storage Foundation AMI can be used to manage storage on EC2's Elastic Block Store (EBS), which had been offered by Amazon as direct-attached block storage for EC2 instances. Amazon's other cloud storage service, Simple Storage Service (S3), uses an object interface and isn't part of this integration, according to Symantec vice president of product marketing John Magee.

EBS already offers EC2 customers elements of traditional storage management, including the ability to assign multiple volumes within EBS to EC2 instances and snapshot capabilities. EBS storage can be preserved for attachment to another EC2 instance later, but EBS can't perform more advanced storage functionality such as logical unit number (LUN) masking to allow multiple EC2 hosts to share one volume.

This is where Magee said Storage Foundation comes in. Once associated with an EC2 host, Storage Foundation can perform many of the same functions available in the existing Storage Foundation product, including volume management, LUN masking, nondisruptive volume expansion, RAID support and restriping, wide striping for load balancing, reporting and monitoring, and volume shredding.

These capabilities will be familiar to most storage pros, but the most popular cloud services require applications to be integrated through a Web services API. Some vendors in the data backup and archiving space have ported their applications to those APIs for customers who want a cloud storage target, but the type of volume management Symantec is providing is rare.

Can Storage Foundation lure users to cloud storage?

Analysts wonder if this product will lure enterprise customers to cloud storage. Partnering with Amazon "could be an interesting alternate distribution channel for Storage Foundation" as cloud computing develops in 2010, said Bob Laliberte, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

"They have some core customers who have deployed [Storage Foundation] very broadly, and some people doing cloud development come from a Unix background, and this could help them be more comfortable," said Rick Villars, vice president, storage systems and executive strategies, at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

While much of the rest of the market aligns in vertically integrated stacks, ESG's Laliberte said it's too early to tell how big of a niche Symantec will carve out for itself with its heterogeneous, software-only philosophy.

Symantec's market share in the stodata rage software market has fluctuated in the last two years, with its share clocked at 17.8% in IDC's most recent Quarterly Storage Software Tracker. This is down from a peak of 18.3% in December 2008, but no lower than its position in December 2007 after it recovered from market share and revenue losses following its Veritas acquisition.

Storage Foundation customers still have to manage Storage Foundation for EC2 separately from on-premise deployments. Integrating management for those two things is trickier than it might appear, Laliberte said. "Who do you pay for what with a model that connects the two?" he asks. But integrated management would be a logical next step toward the vision of the hybrid cloud in which resources can be passed back and forth from a private data center to a service provider easily, and so should be on Symantec's to-do list, Laliberte said.

With heterogeneous hardware support and host-based replication in its portfolio, Symantec could also be in position to provide portability of data between clouds, another hot topic within this year's cloud computing buzz that so far has focused on whether to standardize access APIs between cloud services. "Having virtual servers in different clouds talk to each other with the 'lingua franca' being Storage Foundation would be a perfectly logical next step," IDC's Villars said.

"We're working with customers and partners on things like that," said Symantec's Magee. "Stay tuned."


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