By Heidi Biggar
In what is being described as one of the company's most comprehensive product rollouts this year, Veritas this week announced plans to expand and enhance its enterprise data-protection family with a variety of new or enhanced backup, data life-cycle management (DLM), and other management products over the next few months.
The company has also begun taking crucial steps to integrate its suite of data-protection software. Veritas has long been criticized for its focus on delivering "point" products, rather than integrated product suites.
While arguably none of the products/enhancements singly are revolutionary, analysts say they do have the cumulative effect of advancing the company's overall position in the market and against competing vendors, including archrivals Computer Associates, EMC, IBM, and others.
"Overall, Veritas' announcements aren't groundbreaking," says Nancy Marrone-Hurley, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group consulting firm, "but they show that the company is steadily working toward enhancing and integrating their products in order to deliver on the storage utility."
"In the past, Veritas had a lot of neat products that didn't talk to one another," says Dianne McAdam, a senior analyst and partner at the Data Mobility Group consulting firm. While no vendor is totally integrated yet, McAdam says that Veritas is taking necessary steps toward that objective.
The challenge that Veritas and other vendors (notably, EMC) face is trying to move forward with older products and integrate them into newer management infrastructures and suites, explains McAdam. Other vendors such as CommVault have the advantage of having built their data-protection and management infrastructures from the ground up to interoperate, she says. "They don't have the burden of [trying to make old and new products interoperate]."
Veritas' enterprise data-protection strategy today consists of five products: CommandCentral Service 3.5 (formerly known as Global Operations Manager), NetBackup 5.0, Data Lifecycle Manager 5.0 (an extension of NetBackup Storage Migrator), Desktop and Laptop Option (which replaces NetBackup Pro), and Backup Exec 9.1 for Windows Servers.
The Desktop and Laptop Option, which extends enterprise data-protection capabilities to laptop and desktop users, is fully integrated with NetBackup and Backup Exec. Unlike its predecessor Backup Pro, which Veritas officials admit was cumbersome, the new option reportedly allows users to quickly and seamlessly back up and synchronize files on their desktops and laptops.
The option integrates with NetBackup and Backup Exec, so no additional software needs to be installed on the file server, and no additional backup server is required. Agents installed on desktops and laptops keep track of changed data (blocks or files), storing them in cache. The software automatically (or, if you choose, manually) "flushes" the cache to the backup server (moving blocks and files to the server), allowing participating users to synchronize files stored at multiple locations.
CommandCentral Service 3.5 and Data Lifecycle Manager 5.0 (when it becomes available next quarter) also integrate with NetBackup and Backup Exec. In addition, CommandCentral integrates with third-party backup software (e.g., Legato NetWorker). These two pieces of software are expected to play a key role in the company's future, addressing IT challenges with compliance and service-level management, respectively.
CommandCentral is Veritas' version of a storage portal. It is designed to help users centrally manage and quantify a variety of IT services, such as backup, server provisioning, availability, and application performance.
"It's a data collector that pulls information from a variety of sources into a database; defines, measures, and monitors services levels; and provides an option for chargeback, based on usage, to various business lines," explains Bob Maness, senior director of product marketing at Veritas. "It presents a bill for usage just as any other utility does."
While the concept of a "storage utility" or "utility computing" is still hazy and arguably years away, with the release of CommandCentral Service 3.5, Veritas is taking a key step toward that goal. "In order to deliver on this strategy, Veritas has to provide solutions that enable users to easily manage every aspect of the enterprise," says Marrone-Hurley. "CommandCentral hides all of the intricacies of the backup process from users, allowing them to set up their own backup schemas without requiring in-depth knowledge of the underlying backup process."
While the current release of CommandCentral focuses on backup, Veritas expects to introduce additional modules or options for other services next year. Pricing for CommandCentral starts at $22,000.
Veritas also reiterated its commitment to tackling the issue of data life-cycle management (also known as information life-cycle management, or ILM). "Veritas has realized that DLM/ILM is ready for prime time," says Marrone-Hurley.
Of the product release, Dianne McAdam says: "It's got a pretty sophisticated search engine, which is a key piece of the overall equation. I think it puts them ahead of the competition [at least in this regard]."
The software, which can be purchased as a stand-alone product or as an option to NetBackup or Backup Exec and is an updated version of NetBackup Storage Migrator 4.5, allows users to more easily manage, store, and dispose of data. According to Veritas' Maness, the DLM software creates a virtual data archive that spans different types of storage media (disk, tape, optical) and corresponding storage hierarchies (e.g., online, near-line, offline). "It allows you to create policies and then 'push' those rules out to the infrastructure you're managing," Maness explains.
In addition to a power search/index capability, the new release includes both a policy engine and a data mover, role-based access management, e-mail/messaging (e.g., Exchange), and new file-system support (NTFS). It also automates copies of data to unalterable media types, such as WORM optical, for compliance purposes. Support for Instant Messaging and Lotus Notes is expected in mid-2004.
According to McAdam, ILM/DLM consists of three core technologies: a policy engine, a data engine (data mover), and a back-end archival component. McAdam says that she doesn't expect any single vendor to be able to deliver all pieces. "It will be a bunch of products combined," she says. "No one vendor can do it all. I see vendors working on the parts but no one vendor pulling it all together into a single pane of glass."
While the release of NetBackup 5.0 may have been overshadowed by the hype surrounding ILM/DLM, storage utility, and compliance, the software update includes a new synthetic backup feature, which allows users to combine incremental backups with full backups for faster restore; an Advanced Client feature that allows users to choose among five different snapshot options; and enhanced disk-based data protection, which includes integrating disk staging and the ability to duplicate data "on-the-fly."