Symantec CEO sings of the virtues of virtualization

Virtualization technology can help companies experience server utilization rates comparable to the good ol’ days of mainframe computing, John Thompson chairman and CEO of Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec suggested.

“The appeal is truly understandable,” said Thompson in his keynote on Tuesday at Vision 2008, Symantec’s user conference currently on in Las Vegas.

Thompson reminisced about the time in the mid-70s when he was a young salesman working for IBM Corp., and selling mainframes.


“Those machines,” he recalled, “achieved nearly 100 percent utilization…talk about efficient!”

But the challenge with the mainframe environment was the incredibly slow pace of new app development, he said.

“Today we have the opposite problem.”

He said while firms have far more flexibility in developing and delivering new apps to users, hardware utilization rates gave dropped quite a bit, as IT infrastructures have become more complex.

“Most servers today are less than 20 percent utilized.”

Thompson proposed virtualization is the antidote to this dire problem, as it offers businesses an opportunity to achieve utilization rates of up to 80 percent.

The appeal of this technology is truly understandable, he says.

“As you implement virtualization technologies, you can significantly reduce the amount of money you spend on servers and the time you spend provisioning them. You can stand up a new server in minutes, not days or weeks – and get applications up and running much faster than in the physical world.”

Apart from reducing the sheer physical footprint of a data center, the Symantec CEO said this technology can also shrink power and cooling costs – a big concern as energy prices continue to skyrocket and as organizations try to minimize their impact on the environment.

Despite its obvious benefits, there’s a certain complexity associated with managing a virtual infrastructure, or a blend of both physical and virtual, the Symantec CEO pointed out.

Symantec technologies are helping customers reduce or eliminate that complexity, he said, citing Veritas Cluster Server as a case in point.
The ability to recover between both the physical and virtual environments is a key feature this Symantec product.

Thompson also alluded to Symantec’s recently announced support for VMware systems. Software developer VMware makes proprietary software for the virtualization market.

A key announcement at Vision today was directly related to this issue of “reducing complexity”, specifically storage-management complexity – in virtual environments.

Symantec says Veritas Virtual Infrastructure – is its very first product that “solves the problem of managing storage in large-scale x86 virtual server environments.”

Veritas Virtual Infrastructure is expected to be available in the fall of this year.

Its value proposition, says Symantec, lies in its blending of storage management capabilities with XenServer virtualization technology from Citrix Systems. XenServer is virtual server software that allows companies to deploy virtual machines and manage them from a single management console.

Conventional x86 virtualization products have attempted to resolve the storage complexity issue through a system-based approach, Thompson noted.

But he said such an approach forces users “to give up many of the advanced storage management capabilities they rely on today.”

He contrasted this with Veritas Virtual Infrastructure, which preserves key storage management benefits.

Veritas Virtual Infrastructure establishes a unique, relationship between each virtual server and its underlying storage, just as if it were a physical server, says a Symantec release.

This is says, is in marked difference to current approaches that prevent virtual servers from directly managing storage.

Convergence or integration – of products, technologies, and markets – is a pervasive motif at Vision this year.

At the product level, Symantec announced the integration of features traditionally associated with its Backup Exec mid-market product into NetBackup, an enterprise-grade product.

Veritas Virtual Infrastructure integrates storage management and virtualization technologies. And in the area of compliance, Symantec has announced convergence between its agent-less and agent-based compliance technologies.

“We’ll continue to integrate products in a way that best serves customers,” Thompson told Vision attendees.

He said future areas of convergence would include:

  • Integration of Symantec’s data loss prevention (DLP) applications with its endpoint, archiving, and backup products. “The content awareness capabilities of our DLP technology will allow you to make smart decisions about archiving, so you can encrypt highly-sensitive information, but not every e-mail, IM, or spreadsheet.”
  • Much tighter integration between Symantec’s endpoint management and security products, and its system recovery tools. When this happens, Thompson said, users will be able to “secure and manage [their] endpoint environment – including servers – through a single pane of glass.”

As a company, he said, Symantec has recognized the power of having its products work together.

“So we’re focused on enabling greater interoperability across our portfolio.”

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