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Data storage and security provider Symantec on Jan. 17 began shipping Veritas Storage Foundation 5.0 High Availability for Windows, a feature-packed enterprise storage software package that delivers high-end data and application availability for Microsoft Windows environments.

It combines two existing products—Storage Foundation for Windows and Veritas Cluster Server—for the first time with enhanced usability tools to ease storage management and disaster recovery for Windows data center applications such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint Portal Server, a company spokesperson said.

The launch represents one of the most significant storage software releases involving the integrated company since Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec and Veritas, of Mountain View, Calif., merged in December 2004.

Included in the release is Veritas Storage Foundation Basic for Windows—a free version of the Storage Foundation for Windows middleware—which is designed for edge-tier and infrastructure workloads.

Storage Foundation Basic combines the Veritas File System and Veritas Volume Manager to provide a driver for heterogeneous online storage management. This enables users to benefit from a standard infrastructure operating system across every server in their data center without having to install it on every node.

Storage Foundation Basic for Windows includes DMP (Dynamic Multi-pathing) and runs on physical and virtual servers with system configurations that do not exceed 4 volumes or 2 physical processors in a single physical system.

Important part of Symantec’s data center ‘vision’

“This is an important part of the vision that Symantec has for delivering a next-generation data center software infrastructure,” said Bob Laliberte, a storage analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Conn.

“Symantec divides the next-generation data center software infrastructure into four distinct categories: data protection, storage management, server management and application performance. Their goal is to tie all these areas together with tightly integrated software that will provide a holistic view and management capabilities over complex and geographically dispersed data centers.”

Customers are placing more of their mission-critical applications on the Windows platform, said Laura DuBois, research director of storage software at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

“They need storage management solutions that provide higher availability and better disaster recovery than ever before,” DuBois said.

“Storage Foundation HA for Windows offers enterprises unique capabilities in non-disruptive storage operations, scalable high availability, and disaster recovery solutions—along with centralized storage visibility and control that are must-have requirements for Windows environments.”

A broad feature set

Customers standardizing on Storage Foundation for Windows and DMP can use the broadest storage array support of any multi-pathing solution—including support for leading array families from EMC, HP, HDS, IBM, Network Appliance and Sun—to achieve the most agility and highest return on their storage hardware investments, a company spokesperson said.

Customers also have the flexibility to choose the storage network infrastructure that best fits their needs. Symantec is the only vendor fully certified with Microsoft’s MPIO framework for both Fibre Channel HBA StorPort and Microsoft iSCSI software.

Additionally, Storage Foundation for Windows introduces advanced iSCSI SAN management capabilities, including automated discovery, management and configuration of IP-based SANs.

“Standardization on Storage Foundation HA for Windows allows customers to have more flexibility in their storage hardware decisions and drives down operational costs by enabling them to use a single tool,” said Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Symantec’s Storage Foundation Group.

“This release has furthered the ROI of standardization by reducing the cost of deploying Storage Foundation on every server and enabling customers to have visibility and centralized control of … their entire data center.”

Storage Foundation Management Server will support Storage Foundation for Windows 4.x and 5.0, Veritas Volume Replicator Option and Storage Foundation for Windows Basic, which means customers can view and manage all such instances of Storage Foundation across their entire data center through a single, unified tool.

A new configuration wizard makes storage, cluster and replication installation setup times more than 50 percent faster and allows administrators to use a simple GUI to schedule point-in-time copies when using the FlashSnap Option, the spokesperson said.

What’s the most significant aspect for this product for a potential buyer?

“They packed a lot of features and enhancements into this version, so it will depend on the customer environment, but clearly a few areas stand out,” Laliberte said.

“For customers looking to enhance the performance of their key Windows applications, they have announced customized algorithms specifically tuned for Exchange and SQL. They were able to do this based on their vast experience working and testing these applications over the last two years while they became MPIO certified for both Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

“Also, they have introduced something they call Automated Track Aligned Volume, which helps to optimize the volumes and increase performance by up to 40 percent, which will help any Windows application.”

The integration with other Symantec products, such as VCS (Veritas Cluster Server), VVR (Veritas Volume Replicator) and Veritas FlashSnap, is also very impressive, Laliberte said.

“These capabilities are more important as Windows platforms are utilized for more mission-critical applications. Customers with a lot of edge-tier Windows servers will appreciate the Basic version that is provided for free and the fact that the soon to be released Storage Foundation Server Manager will provide an enterprise-wide view and reporting capabilities for all the edge as well as core servers,” Laliberte said.

Next Page: New features; levels of automation.

Cluster server also has new features

Veritas Cluster Server itself also has new features in this release. Cluster Server’s secure, Web-based Cluster Management Console simplifies the task of managing, monitoring and configuring multiple clusters for Windows, Linux and Unix, running in multiple data centers. Cluster Server also provides protection across physical and virtual server environments that include Windows, VMware and Microsoft Virtual Server.

Read more here about Symantec’s VMware-ready cluster server.

Cluster Server also includes Fire Drill, which lets organizations regularly test disaster recovery scenarios without exposing production applications to risk and downtime.

For applications that require coordination of application clustering and remote data protection, the Veritas Volume Replicator option has added the ability to coordinate snapshots at both the primary and a remote secondary location for consistent backup or disk-based disaster recovery solutions.

Users can download the free version of Storage Foundation Basic for Windows here.

Storage Foundation 5.0 for Windows HA starts at $695 per server.

Levels of automation making all the difference

IT organizations are constantly challenged to provide higher levels of service to the business with continually shrinking budgets, Laliberte said.

“This isn’t really anything new. What is changing is the levels of automation and visibility provided by today’s software solutions,” he said.

Customers are now able to manage more storage, servers and switches because management software has improved to the point where a manual task that used to take more than an hour is now accomplished with a few mouse clicks, Laliberte said.

Reporting has improved significantly, and the amount and type of data collected, analyzed and turned into actionable information continues to grow. All of this translates into organizations being able to react quicker, plan better and ultimately provide higher levels of service, Laliberte said.

“We are still in the infancy of developing a single solution to manage a data center, but the pieces are coming together, and it is clear to see the direction we are headed,” he said.

“This [Symantec-Veritas] release is another evolutionary step, but a good-sized one, in providing end users the tools they need to more effectively manage their IT environment,” Laliberte said.

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