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  1. Technology
September 23, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Storage management ISV Veritas Software Corp has embarked on an audacious if little trumpeted strategy that ultimately requires customers to deploy its high-availability and cluster file system software to support new SAN storage area network architectures rather than native products such as Sun, HP or Microsoft system software. Veritas claims 85% of high-availability users on Sun servers are already using its software rather than Sun Cluster, and will want a solution that supports multiple platforms not just one. Problems Veritas will face include the slow adoption of SANs given the immature nature of the technology; incompatible implementations of Fibre Channel in disk and switch products; hefty initial costs versus traditional SCSI and LAN storage; resistance from hardware vendors peddling their own HA solutions; migration of existing file systems and applications to SAN architectures; the need to command cross-industry support for a common Unix/NT data storage/access format; and possible resistance to its own proprietary Cluster Stat clustering protocol in the face of the Intel-driven Virtual Interface Architecture API (neither of which uses TCP/IP) which it has not yet committed to supporting. Furthermore Veritas needs a better marketing peg on which to hang its strategy. It claims the current bout of competition for uptime bragging rights among system vendors is a smokescreen. Systems will always go down but Sun, HP and others are betting the cost of paying out to those unfortunate users is more than offset by the revenue from selling higher-priced guarantee uptime pricing.

Plug-in cluster file systems

SANs provide any-to-any connections between clients, applications and data storage over an architecture described as a fabric, that includes switching devices and routers. Availability can be shared among nodes in a SAN cluster and does not require 100% redundancy. However, to manage SANs Veritas needs to touch many more parts of a system than with its conventional storage management and backup. Few companies outside of a handful of Wall Street financial houses with unlimited budgets have actually implemented a SAN. And showing just how hard this is to do, two of the 32-node demos Veritas had on stage at a New York event – hot-swap and failover – failed. Moreover although designed with 100Mbyte Fibre Channel connections in mind, SANs can just as easily accommodate traditional SCSI devices. Initially Veritas’ new Cluster Server application will support homogeneous device sharing, in other words SAN-enabled clustering, failover, backup and restore and storage management for up to32 Sun Solaris nodes and storage. Next year when Cluster Server supports Windows NT, HP-UX and Solaris x86 it will offer the ability for data to be shared between different applications running on these platforms and support cross-platform clustering and HA. Beyond 2000, when Veritas makes cluster file systems available for Sun, HP, NT and other platforms it supports (if by then it has won cross-industry support for a common way of storing and accessing Unix and NT data), it expects that heterogeneous applications will be able to simultaneously share the same data. It expects to provide cluster file systems as plug-in system software. Given its volume manager and other file system products – although not strictly required for Cluster Server – are bundled with a plethora of operating systems (with NT to come) giving it – it believes – significant leverage. Cluster Server – which effectively replaces the company’s existing FirstWatch software – can utilize Veritas’ existing file system, volume manager, storage manager, Net Backup and HSM products – the event management work is derived from its 1996 acquisition of OpenVision Inc. Veritas will today provide its sales force with a guide to briefing customers on how to migrate FirstWatch files to Cluster Server. It predicts that up to 90% of files should move across depending on the degree of customization. Cluster Server costs $6,000 per server. It’s due on NT by mid-1999 and on HP-UX by the end of next year. A Solaris x86 port will be next. Veritas said it would love to do AIX but has not yet been invited. It has storage optimizer and planner applications in the works for the fourth quarter that will update existing volume optimizer and volume manager. A storage planner program will ship next year. Storagemanager starts at $25,000. Cluster Server and SAN module plug-ins will follow next year. Veritas says its storage manager agents, HSM, backup, file system, volume manager – which it calls intelligent network attached storage – provides the functional equivalent of a Network Appliance Inc server, in software. With 1,000 employees and more than 1,500 customers Veritas says it needs its $200m cash to complete its various programs.

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