Easy storage management is hard work

DALLAS -Steve Staves, senior technical analyst at Canfor Corp., has servers from a variety of vendors, as well as myriad applications. He’s looking for ways to manage the data stored on servers and tape, which is easier said than done.

“Everybody’s got a heterogeneous environment,” he said, adding that the mix of technology and vendors makes storage management difficult.

But Staves wants more than the status quo for Canfor, a forestry products firm in Vancouver. He wants to be able to manage data from one point in the network, to see storage become part of the network itself, and to see technology vendors working together to meet his needs.

He came to Veritas Software Corp.’s Vision 2002 users’ conference this week to hear about the company’s upcoming storage management solutions. Staves said he liked what he heard.

“Some of their (Veritas’) direction is leaning towards management of heterogeneous environments,” he noted, adding that it’s a good sign from the Mountain View, Calif.-based storage software vendor.

During the conference Veritas announced new programs designed to bring disparate parts of the IT shop together. The firm unveiled Veritas Enabled, a program wherein Veritas becomes a single point of contact for customer care.

For example, if Staves had problems with a Dell server running Veritas software, he could call Veritas to co-ordinate a fix, even if the trouble resided in Dell’s hardware instead of the Veritas software.

Veritas will exchange application programming interfaces (APIs) with its partners, and test products with Enabled participants’ wares to make sure everything works smoothly. Compaq Computer Corp., Dell Computer Corp., EMC Corp., and others have signed up.

As well, under another program called Veritas Powered, the company will work with switch and router builders. That way, Veritas software becomes part of the network itself, rather than a server-based appendage. Cisco Systems Inc. is the first to join this initiative, although Veritas would not say what Cisco plans to build with Veritas software inside.

Veritas also announced that its storage software line has been extended to work with IBM Corp.’s AIX 5L OS.

Veritas wants to bring the industry together, to see companies meeting users’ needs through co-opetition, rather than old-fashioned competition, said Robert Soderbery, the firm’s senior director, strategic alliances and business development.

Customers want more than integration at the technology level, he said. “They don’t want a shotgun wedding. They want to know vendors are married at the hip.”

But the hardware vendors compete for the same customer. “It’s very hard for them to work together,” Soderbery said. Veritas, an independent software player, has a unique opportunity to play peacemaker, he pointed out.

There are challenges, however, said Stephen Elliot, research director, storage management with Framingham, Mass.-based Hurwitz Group Inc. Although Veritas has garnered approval from certain hardware vendors, some of them might not play fair.

The fact is most hardware vendors have their own storage software to sell. If, for example, EMC can convince a customer to buy its hardware as well as its own software, the company will promote its home grown apps over Veritas’ products, Elliot said.

Veritas’ saving grace is critical mass. As it wins fans among data storage operators, the user community will demand that hardware works well with Veritas software, Elliot said. In time, the likes of Compaq, Dell and EMC would not be able to afford foul play.

As a Veritas customer himself, Staves said he approves of Veritas’ new direction. If this path means easier management of heterogeneous storage floors, he’s all for it. “They’re definitely on the right track… It’s about time somebody took the initiative.”