Symantec’s Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows Further Helps Level Hypervisor Playing Field

If there is anything that businesses deplore is a lack of choice and, right now, a perception exists that VMware vSphere is their only hypervisor choice due to some features that vSphere offers that Microsoft Hyper-V does not. However this gap in hypervisor feature functionality closed further with this week’s release from Symantec Corporation of Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows. Using it in conjunction with Microsoft Hyper-V, businesses and organizations can now get some of the same type of hypervisor benefits from Microsoft Hyper-V that VMware vSphere offers and even some new ones that vSphere does not.

In a recent blog entry I commented how the statistics surrounding the adoption rate and growth of VMware within businesses over the last few years are staggering. Consider that over 19,000 customers, partners, press and analysts attended its recent 2011 VMworld conference in Las Vegas and that a new VM is created somewhere in the world every 6 seconds.

Despite VMware’s growth, businesses still appear to be leery about betting the future of their data on a single hypervisor platform. It was only last week when I was in attendance at the HDS Influencer Summit that HDS shared that all of its enterprise accounts have multiple hypervisors running in their environments. Anecdotal evidence like this would seem to suggest that while VMware has a significant head start in hypervisor adoption businesses are still keeping their hypervisor options open.

This willingness of businesses to look for hypervisor alternatives to VMware vSphere gives some insight into the impetus behind some of the new features announced in the Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows, which includes Veritas Storage Foundation 6.0 for Windows for storage management solutions and Veritas Cluster Server 6.0 for Windows for high availability/disaster recovery solutions, today.

While all of these features may not be directly targeted at helping to equalize the playing field between Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere 5.0, the argument can certainly be made that these new features in Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows go a long way in making that happen. Consider:

  • Faster detection of failures. Previously in clustered Windows environments, a polling-based monitoring mechanism was used to detect for application failures. Using Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows, organizations now have access to its Intelligent Monitoring Framework (IMF) that integrates with the Windows operating system so Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 automatically receives alerts about application failures. This proactive approach to receiving information as the alerts are generated as opposed to periodically polling for these alerts enables Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows to more quickly detect failures in Windows and Hyper-V environments.
  • Faster failovers. Once a process failure is detected, Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows also introduces its new Multi-node Disk Group Access feature, which is a shared volume manager, to accelerate failover recovery. Previously for a failover to occur, the failover server would have access to the production server’s disk group but it would still need to import the disk group and rescan the disks in it that could take minutes or even hours to complete.  

Using Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows, both the production and the failover server continue to have access to the same disk group though they both now have Read-Only access to the disk group(s). Now the only thing that changes during a failover is which server has Read-Write permission.

During a failover, that switching from the production server to the failover server and eliminates the need for the failover server to import disk groups and rescan the disks. This change reduces the time for application failovers to occur in as fast as a minute or less. Further, since Hyper-V is a part of Windows, this failover capabilities is extended to every VM hosted by Hyper-V.

  • Automated disaster recovery across any distance. Microsoft Failover Cluster already provides high availability and live migration for Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs) but only at a single site.  Veritas Cluster Server 6.0 for Windows extends these native abilities found in Microsoft Failover Cluster across any distance.

Veritas Cluster Server 6.0 for Windows integrates with hardware replication technology, and then Veritas Cluster Server 6.0 performs the end-to-end recovery automation of  Hyper-V virtual machines at the disaster recovery site.  Then should a recovery of either a physical or virtual machine at the second site be required, Veritas Cluster Server 6.0 for Windows automates the recovery of the applications at the other site by working in conjunction with Microsoft Failover Cluster.

Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows introduces these new features for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Hyper-V by extending and integrating storage management and high availability/disaster recovery (HA/DR) solutions across any virtual platform (Hyper-V, VMware, KVM, etc) and any physical platform (Windows, Linux, Unix).

This gives some inkling into how Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows helps to close a specific feature functionality gap that now exists between Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere. Both Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere natively provide the ability to failover VMs from one physical machine to another with Microsoft using its Live Migration feature to perform this function while VMware uses its vMotion feature.

However, of the two hypervisors, only VMware vSphere 5.0 currently offers the ability to do Storage vMotion.  Using Storage vMotion, vSphere leaves the VM and its applications running on the same physical machine while Storage vMotion transparently moves the VM’s disk file from one backend storage array to another.  This technique minimizes or even eliminates the need to take VMs offline when backend storage arrays are taken offline for maintenance or storage upgrades. As of right now, Microsoft Hyper-V offers no such functionality.

Veritas Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows enables Microsoft Hyper-V to overcome this existing limitation. Using Veritas Storage Foundation 6.0 for Windows in a Hyper-V environment, organizations can now create a volume on one supported storage array and then mirror that volume to a second supported storage array.

This new functionality, known as Hyper-V Online Storage Migration, enables organizations to now run VMs on Hyper-V and use Storage Foundation 6.0 for Window’s Online Storage Migration capability to transparently move a VM’s  virtual disks from one storage array to another to accommodate moving to either higher tier or lower tier storage or performing storage array maintenance, without needing to take the VM offline to do so.

VMware vSphere has gotten a great deal of momentum among businesses over the last few ye
ars b
ut as some storage hardware providers are pointing out, their enterprise customers are still keeping their hypervisor options open. The Veritas Storage Foundation 6.0 for Windows gives them further reason to do so. By bringing Storage vMotion-like features to Microsoft Hyper-v with its Hyper-V Online Storage Migration feature and additional faster detection of failures, faster failover and disaster recovery across any distance features, Storage Foundation High Availability 6.0 for Windows does more than improve Hyper-V availability and recoverability. It may have just helped to level the hypervisor playing field.

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