Veritas: a smart switching move
Virtualization software on Cisco
Veritas Software has shipped a version of its server-based virtualization software that will run on Cisco's MDS 9000 smart switch, although it does not expect the software to achieve volume take-up for up to two years. The product has some limitations, but these are unlikely to deter Veritas' clients from trading up in the medium term.
Veritas' new server-based virtualization software is still dependent on the host-based version of Veritas Volume Manager product, but Veritas insisted that this is not because it does not want to compromise sales of that host-based software.
The version of VM ported to run on Cisco's gear is the first shipping application that truly exploits smart switching technology, and will receive key qualification from disk makers such as IBM, EMC or Hewlett Packard in the next quarter.
Brocade and McData are apparently some way behind Cisco with the software port, which involves joint-development between hardware and software engineers. Veritas said it will not ship a version of the software for Brocade's forthcoming Rhapsody-developed switch until the second half of 2004, and that it has not even started work on a port to McData's hardware that will be based on technology McData acquired only this year.
Not all of the promised benefits of smart switching will be fully delivered by Veritas' software. One of the benefits is simplified administration, but for the new Veritas software to deliver more than "base-line" functionality, it will need to work with host-based VM software - requiring the heavy workload of installing and maintaining software on multiple application servers.
Nonetheless, the new software will offer data replication functions - mirroring and snapshotting - that will spare customers the need to buy costly software from disk makers, according to Veritas. This will also allow replication between different brands of disk arrays, so eliminating an element of lock-in. However VM and other appliance-based virtualization products already do this.
With a sizeable installed base already running VM on host servers, Veritas may not find too much resistance to the limitations of the switch-based version. It also said that by moving data mapping functions to the switch, it will entirely offload virtualization processing from host servers, so preventing application performance being slowed, one of the major limits to the scalability of host-based virtualization systems.