Unified strategy key to managing IT complexity

The aim of Symantec's recently released Storage United approach is to administer heterogeneous storage as a single resource

“Unified” thinking about security and storage management is needed if modern datacentres are to run efficiently, says Kris Hagerman, Symantec’s group president for datacentre management.

Data volumes have grown by a multiple of two or three in the past few years, and the inventory of ICT equipment has become more heterogeneous, he says. The number and importance of applications is also growing, and keeping them from going down while keeping costs low is becoming more critical to the customer, says Hagerman.

“We need to get to the root cause of this complexity, to get our arms around all of these different platforms.”

This is the aim of Symantec’s recently released Storage United approach — to administer heterogeneous storage as a single resource.

Virtualisation is both “part of the problem” and “part of the solution” when it comes to administering multiple servers economically and in a secure way, Hagerman says.

“Just about everyone of scale is exploring it.”

VMware is the most popular, “but it’s still being used mostly in development and test environments, not in production,” says Hagerman. The lack of maturity in the market is shown by the fact that even those companies that seem to be deeply into VMware are still exploring alternative products.

Virtualisation has a lot of attractive aspects, but it also has its challenges. There are many more entities to manage, and physical and virtual servers behave in subtly different ways. If you get hit by a virus, it may affect several virtual machines in the one hit, when it might otherwise have been confined to one physical server, Hagerman argues.

On the storage front, management has become more complex, but Symantec claims to have licked the problem of single-point management, and says it can restore lost data at the level of single files in real or virtual servers.

Even the cost advantage of virtualisation is not as clear-cut as is often assumed, when the cost of the virtualisation software plus the team needed to manage such a complex set-up is taken into account.

“It’s assumed that it’s cheaper and easier to carve one server into 10 parts than to buy and administer 10 servers, but some customers have found the reverse to be true.”

Security specialist Symantec took over storage-management company Veritas in July 2005. The company has now merged to the extent that staff no longer think about “legacy-Symantec and legacy-Veritas”, says Hagerman. Although he concedes some of the company’s customers might still see it as two entities.

Hagerman is a former Veritas man. He joined that company in 2001. Putting the companies together made sense both strategically and operationally, he says.

“If you have a well-managed infrastructure and no visibility of how secure it is, you’re only seeing half the picture. Storage must become increasingly security-aware,” he says. A customer of the old Symantec could be confident that threats were detected and remedied, he says, but they weren’t fully aware of what they were protecting.

On the security side, the new Endpoint Security 11.0 is the star, with claims it can tackle a number of security problems, including viruses, spam, spyware and firewall protection, “in a single agent with a small footprint” — the latter a response to criticism that Symantec’s products are resource-gobblers.

• Stephen Bell was a guest of Symantec at the Symantec Vision conference held in Sydney last month

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Tags storage unitedsymantecvirtualisation

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