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Symantec to consolidate Veritas Cluster Server and storage resource management applications

Symantec set to consolidate storage resource management (SRM) products while working more closely with VMware; customers want clearer messaging around Symantec's products for Oracle and Windows.

Symantec Corp. is preparing to consolidate products in the Storage and Availability Management Group, including Veritas Operations Manager and CommandCentral Storage, as well as Veritas Cluster Server (VCS) and VCS One. The consolidation comes as customers and analysts say Symantec needs to further hone its value proposition around storage resource management (SRM).

Anil Chakravarthy, who took over as senior vice president of the Symantec Storage and Availability Management Group in January, said Veritas Operations Manager and CommandCentral Storage will be consolidated into one product beginning with a release around October. That release will also include Symantec's Data Insight software for chargeback.

Veritas Cluster Server, Veritas Cluster Server for VMware ESX and VCS One will also be consolidated with a release coming in 2011, Chakravarthy said. Storage Foundation will be given a more modular architecture, and will "peel off" Dynamic Multipathing as a standalone module. Previously, customers had to buy all of Storage Foundation to get that one feature.

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The VCS consolidation will follow the path of VCS One, which separated application monitoring functions from cluster "heartbeat" maintenance. "VCS One separated the two, so you could do application monitoring on much bigger 32- or 64-node clusters," Chakravarthy said. Next year's release "will enable migration from the converged version of VCS to one where application monitoring and cluster maintenance are broken out."

Until then, he said, all of the products will remain on the market and there are no current plans around discontinuing any of the separate products, he said.

Symantec to work better with VMware

Chakravarthy said Symantec will also work on strengthening its relationship with VMware Inc. with an application monitoring tool for vCenter and clustered NFS for VMware on the way this year. "What VMware noticed when they came to us was that they don't have application-level visibility inside the virtual machine," Chakravarthy said. "So that is the agent we are putting in with VCS. We will then send a signal to the VMware console to do things like VMotion migration or VM restart, for example."

He added that Symantec's clustered NFS will also be integrated with VMware "for large-scale VM [virtual machine] environments to be able to store the VM images efficiently [while avoiding] the "boot storm" type of problem."

Symantec has already disclosed plans to scrap its S4 object storage file system and integrate it with its FileStore scale-out product, which also falls in Chakravarthy's group.

Users, analysts say Symantec has work to do

Symantec customers say they're still looking to hear more from the vendor about its value proposition for its data management products, particularly Storage Foundation and VCS. Tom Becchetti, an enterprise storage architect and Symantec Storage Foundation and NetBackup customer who asked that his company not be identified, called Storage Foundation Symantec's "worst marketed product," especially for Windows.

"Half the Windows admins I know do not know why you would want to run Storage Foundation or even know that it exists," he wrote to in an email. "To me, that is poor job marketing. The Windows group here was ready to stop using [it] [until] they realized they would have to pay for PowerPath anyway to get multi-pathing."

Becchetti also said he wanted to hear more about Symantec's relationship with Oracle Corp. following its acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc. Sun's ZFS had been Symantec's largest file system partner.

Storage Foundation is a standard at Becchetti's organization, "Except in the case of Oracle [RAC] installs," he said. "Oracle will seem to do anything to keep it out of that install. We have to run an older version of Windows 2008 because the new version, for Windows 2008 R2, won't work with Storage Foundation. Now the Windows admins want it out."

Chakravarthy agreed that Symantec should step up its marketing efforts around Storage Foundation, part of what the restructuring is meant to accomplish. Where Oracle is concerned, "Oracle is de-emphasizing reseller relationships," he said. This means that Storage Foundation can no longer be sold at a discount through Oracle. Chakravarthy said Storage Foundation has been certified with Windows 2008 R2 (as of Version 5.1 SP1), and that the qualification with Oracle RAC may be backlogged within Oracle.

"I can't comment on a specific customer's experience with Oracle," he said, but the companies maintain "a technical alliance."

Mississippi Baptist Health Systems senior systems engineer Jim Touchstone uses Storage Foundation to create volumes that exceed the typical size compatible with operating systems without disrupting performance. But Touchstone said he's looking for a more consolidated approach to failing over various applications and operating systems. This plays squarely to Symantec's long-standing value proposition with VCS. "Symantec has assured us they can do it," Touchstone said. "If they can do it, and in a cost-effective manner, I will consider it," but that's not yet a certainty.

Andrew Reichman, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, said Symantec is losing ground in many cases to storage management tools sold by storage vendors with their arrays.

"I don't think they've done enough to leverage the relationships they have with [their existing] customers, especially NetBackup customers, and get those customers to use their other products," Reichman said of Symantec.

In Reichman's view, Symantec's problem is that "everything they do is kind of a helper" rather than a core storage product. "They don't make storage systems, and the vendors that do are out there trying to eat Symantec's lunch — and it's hard to say they're not succeeding," he said. "There are a lot of smart people over [at Symantec], they have partnerships and they understand the problems in storage, but are they using their advantages to the fullest and really fending off the competition? I would say no."

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