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Symantec 'cloud' service patchy

This week, Symantec Corp. launched a service that pushes configuration updates to Veritas Cluster Server and Veritas Storage Foundation users specific to that user’s environment. It’s called Veritas Operations Services and is supposedly “cloud based,” according to Sean Derrington, the director of storage management and availability at Symantec. But it’s more like Software as a Service than cloud computing. Here’s a snapshot of our Q&A with Derrington:

How does Symantec push out alerts to users?

Sean Derrington:  When a customer creates an account through [the Veritas Installation Assessment Service at], they have the option to “opt in” for notifications. The alerts are sent via email and the specifics of the alert (e.g., maintenance pack, hot fix, new technical documentation) are included and unique to the customer’s server/storage environment. (For example, a Sun Solaris customer won’t receive IBM AIX updates.) Once the customer receives the notification, they can take the appropriate action at their discretion, timing, and incorporate it into their change-control processes.

How is this a “cloud” service other than in name?

S.D.: This is a cloud-based service, as it fundamentally alters how organizations can understand best practices, known supported configurations and identify hidden risks in their environment. The process would be as follows:

1.      An IT organization visits

2.      A user downloads an agentless data collector that gathers detailed server and storage configuration.

3.      The user securely uploads the information to (note: no application information or customer information is securely transmitted, simply configuration details).

4.      A customized XML report on the server(s) that were analyzed is sent back to the customer, providing dynamic links to pertinent information regarding server and storage configurations.

5.      This process can be repeated each time an organization is planning to go through a Veritas Storage Foundation and/or Veritas Cluster Server installation or upgrade and real time valid configuration information will be used for comparison.

Without this service, how did users go about patch management and so forth?

A:   There are two ways that customers have historically been able to understand Veritas Storage Foundation and Veritas Cluster Server patch management.

1.     Symantec sends an email notification based on customer’s license subscription (e.g., Veritas Storage Foundation for Oracle Real Application Clusters). This isn’t platform-specific, because the detailed configuration information isn’t known; only the type of license is.

2.           Alternatively, customers can visit the Symantec support site, search for the software version and platform version in their environment and determine if there are valid patches that should be applied.

Can you offer real-world examples of how the service has improved things for users?

S.D.: Yes. Currently there are more than 500 customers using the Veritas Installation Assessment Service, and they have analyzed thousands of server and storage configurations.  And of the servers that have been assessed, about 40% of the servers were found to have configuration errors. The top two invalid configurations (constituting about 70% of the total errors) were (1) storage subsystems that weren’t configured properly and (2) insufficient disk space. The insufficient disk space error is for the Veritas Storage Foundation and/or Veritas Cluster Server software, not application/database data capacity.

How much does the service cost?

S.D.:  It’s $500 per physical server and is available now. 

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