Symantec offers free cloud-based software to ease configuration pain

A new cloud-based offering from Symantec Corp. to help customers of Veritas Storage Foundation and Cluster Server will appeal to small or mid-sized businesses and comes at the right price (free), according to a Canadian analyst.

Symatec Corp. announced wide availability of its Veritas Operations Services yesterday. The software-as-a-service offering seeks to soothe configuration pain points for customers using Veritas storage products. But it’s price tag is appealing and may win over some new customers.

“Free is good,” says Darin Stahl, lead analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. “It’s very nicehe oriented for any company that doesn’t have legacy storage and looking to move away from directo access storage.”

Symantec has been providing storage for the enterprise for the last 15 years. Now two new cloud-based products will be added to its repetoire – the Installation Assessment Service (IAS) and Helath Check.

IAS seeks to validate configuration of a company’s IT infrasturcutre before they install or upgrade a Veritas product. Health Check tries to identify configuration errors before they happen, hopefully avoding costly downtime or lagging performance and under-utilization.

Symantec wanted to use a cloud-based approach for a few reasons, says Sean Derrington, diretor of storage and availability management group at Symantec.

“It’s one of the easiest ways to make this service work, and it takes the burden out of the customers’ hands,” he says. “Instead of asking the customer to go to multiple hardware vendors and software vendors for compatibility, we actually automate that.”

While the IAS product will do this before a Veritas installation or upgrade, Health Check can examine 40 different parameters on a network configuration to ensure everything is optimized. For example, users of Oracle database software will be alerted if their servers aren’t properly configured to run the application.

“We guid the customer through the process to best opimize the Oracle server,” Derrington says.

But the cloud-based method of offering this server maintenance package isn’t what gives Veritas the advantage, according to Stahl. While it is unique, vendors offering client-based methods could still accomplish the same sort of configuration trouble-shooting.

“I’m going to call in my conflict to the vendor because I can’t work while it exists,” he says. “They’re going to make a note of that. So it’s not much different other than it’s a bit more instantaneous when it opens up the ticket on the Symantec side.”

But Veritas is levelling the playing field with its competitors by offering this service through the cloud, the analyst adds. The real lure of the product will be for those entering the storage foundations market and without a lot of background expertise. Being free also helps.

“It will be a differentiator for those who are looking at price across the board,” he says.

The Health Check product not only gathers information about a customers’ enviornment, but provides troubleshooting to help them resolve potential issues. Alerts will show users what needs to be addressed and a step-by-step guide will help resovle problems.

“The more we can domonstrate value and remove hidden risks, I think that helps deliver better value to business,” Derrington says. “That will help them be more strategic in delivering services to the business.”

The product beta was released in Oct. 2007 and it has been widely available since May. Symantec was monitoring some trial runs with customers before coming out the door with a wider announcment. Of the 500 customers using the service to scan thousands of servers, about 40 per cent of them found errors inside their configuraiton. The top two problems were an incompatible storage array and insufficient disk space.

Vertias will help you fix that, Derrington says.

“We’ll flag where that disk space is insufficient and then we’ll be able to identify and show that customer where it is and where they need it,” he says.

The ability to do trending reports with the service is a concern for Stahl. He doesn’t see where his last report is stored, and only “right-now” statistics seem to be available.

“Trending is important,” he says. “There’s no other reason to look at storage reporting if you’re not doing capacity planning. It’s like looking at the gas meter in the car and seeing its empty, then not filling up.”

Still, the agentless and free service should be tempting to those entering the market.

Veritas claims you can choose to save reports.

The two tools can be downloaded at vias.symantec.com.

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