Traditional clustering methodologies are severely limited in respect to scale, heterogeneous support, and distributed application support. Because of these limitations, clustering has primarily been the domain of shops with high-end applications with equally high-end budgets for the hardware and software needed to implement clustering. Symantec’s announcement last week of Veritas Cluster Server (VCS) One begins to change this scenario for any organization interested in extending the benefits of clustering to a greater number of their applications. And based upon what we saw in this first release of VCS One, we are now wondering who wouldn’t be interested in clustering more of their environment, whether virtual or physical.
Legacy clustering methods for high availability (HA) and disaster recovery (DR) have not really kept up with the times. As corporations have started their move into next-generation data center models that take into account virtualization, massive scale and tiered application environments, they are left with incomplete, or at best cobbled together, HA/DR scenarios.
That begins to change with last week’s release of VCS One. Though Symantec already has a long running and very successful history in clustering, its current products are still largely rooted in the existing clustering model. With the introduction of VCS One, Symantec takes a very new and unique approach to clustering. VCS One removes the barriers of a traditional clustering engine and creates a new environment where the operating system and the number of systems (physical or virtual) is no longer a factor. In so doing, companies are no longer tied to a single OS clustering solution anymore that only protects the application database in their most critical environment.
VCS One acts as a light weight glue that enables multiple systems to act in a coordinated way to support end-to-end applications – be they physical, virtual or even different operating systems. It’s already extremely scalable: in just its first rendition it scales out to 256 nodes versus the standard 32 nodes using normal clustering technology. Another key differentiator is that it no longer is integrated into the OS Kernel so the days of those laborious cluster upgrades are over. All organizations need on their host is a VCS One client that coordinates and reports to the central clustering repository, called the VCS One Policy Master.
Right out of the gate, Symantec provides two very slick use cases for VCS One: Multi-Tier HA and Scale-Out Control. Multi-Tier HA, in our view, is a real need for any customer with Tiered-Applications sitting across multiple OSes. For example, say a customer has an order-entry system where the web front-end is on Windows and the backend database is running on Solaris. Multi-Tier HA provides the integration so that if any portion of the application goes down, it can be restarted in the proper order ensuring quicker return to service.
In some of Tim’s past experiences in trying to navigate the boundaries of a Windows team, a Unix team, etc, it was extremely difficult to coordinate the shutdown and proper restart of a tiered application. So instead of wasting time trying to place help desk calls and trying to find the proper people to bring up the application, it can now be driven by an automated policy and initiated by your operations crew.
Scale-Out Control provides the ability of routine or scheduled restarts of applications and servers from a single-pane of glass that again takes into account the transparency of physical, virtual, mixed OS’es, etc. For example, during the evening hours a customer may want to perform some extensive mining on a database that was used during the day, but come morning they want to disable the mining routines to bring back the levels of performance needed for daily operations. Scale-Out Control provides an automated way of performing these functions, and those functions are delivered in a single-management console, allowing the Sys-Admins and Architects to design and implement the configuration, but has the Operations crew perform the function. This saves significant expenses from an operational perspective.
Symantec’s long history and extensive experience with clustering is made evident in this release of VCS One. Symantec provides undeniable evidence that they have a firm grasp on what customers need to continue to survive and thrive in the next-generation data center environments. By eliminating the traditional boundaries of clustering and creating an entirely new approach to data center infrastructure management, companies can not only rethink how they manage clustering, but also how they need to think about managing their data center. Yet this is only the beginning and the future roadmap of VCS One has some very attractive features so stay tuned because this product is just getting started.