Symantec is looking to smooth SAN storage management in virtualized environments with new software called Veritas Dynamic Multi-Pathing for VMware, a stand-alone product for the ESX hypervisor that uses VMware’s Pluggable Storage Architecture (PSA) framework. Its main objective is to improve storage I/O and overall performance by adding intelligence and visibility into how data is routed and prioritized between virtual machines and a storage area network (SAN) resources.

Veritas Dynamic Multi-Pathing was developed to help IT administrators overcome some of the storage management shortcomings of vSphere’s “native tool set,” said Dan Lamorena, director of the Storage and Availability Management Group for Symantec. In short, existing solutions “don’t have the tool sets for multi-pathing on Linux and Unix” let alone the performance algorithms to assure enterprise levels of data availability, he added.

Despite virtualization’s healthy rate of adoption, factors like these still stand in the way of moving their business critical applications onto VMware for many organizations, said Lamorena.

The problem boils down to how VMware and SANs speak — or rather don’t speak — to one another, explained Symantec’s Principal Technical Product Manager for the Storage and Availability Management Group, Chad Bersche. Think of routing virtual server data in a stock VMware environment “like punching in destination address in a GPS,” he said.

GPS for VMware SANs
VMware’s systematic, round-robin approach transfers data like an older GPS navigates the roadways. It sends cars down pre-determined paths “with no knowledge of what’s going on in the road,” said Bersche. Add real-time traffic and the rules of the game change, for the better, argues Symantec.

With Veritas Dynamic Multi-Pathing, VMware data is automatically and seamlessly re-routed in the event of a path failure. When it’s back online, the link is restored, SAN configuration included. The product also allows administrators to set and institute I/O prioritization policies and enhance performance by distributing I/O across multiple paths without impacting system uptime.

Speaking of systems, Symantec touts a hardware-agnostic approach that interfaces with — and centralizes management across — SAN systems from multiple vendors via a tab in VMware vCenter or command line interface (CLI). According to the company, it amounts to a storage management platform that improves I/O and enhances data availability, giving IT managers the confidence to start migrating their critical apps onto virtualized environments.

Another benefit, explained Bersche, is that the product can help breach the oftentimes-impenetrable firewall between server and storage personnel. Veritas Dynamic Multi-Pathing “bridges communications gaps” between server and storage administrators, he commented.

This is due to the product’s monitoring and reporting capabilities, which expose key attributes inside the SAN via vCenter plugin. In one example, server and storage admins can coordinate on virtual machine guest storage, placing data on tiers of storage that provide a better fit for the type of workloads a virtual machine is expected to handle. It can also aid in troubleshooting, subsystem health monitoring and promote consistency in device naming conventions, said Symantec.

Veritas Dynamic Multi-Pathing for VMware is available now and is subject to a per-processor price of $900 USD. NetApp will be reselling the product to help customers with VMware storage management on its systems this summer.