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Symantec FileStore

Symantec today announced the availability of FileStore, a resilient clustered NAS platform that the company uses internally to deliver its  Norton Online Backup and Symantec Hosted Services backup and archiving services. Although FileStore is not a cloud storage platform in its own right, it could serve as storage infrastructure supporting an enterprise or public cloud service.

Scalable File Storage Leveraging Veritas Technology

FileStore is an evolution of Symantec’s own internal storage platform work and is already in use both within and outside the company. It leverages the Veritas Clustered File System (CFS) and the Linux operating system within a “software appliance” cluster to serve files using the SMB, NFS, FTP, and HTTP protocols. A  FileStore cluster runs on a customer’s own Intel server hardware, taking SAN or JBOD storage and presenting it to Windows or UNIX NAS clients.

Symantec's FileStore is a clustered software NAS appliance

Symantec's FileStore is a clustered software NAS appliance

The cluster is certified up to 16 nodes, but company officials suggested greater scalability is in the works. They also pointed to an upcoming  SPEC SFS test measurement, promising to exceed NetApp’s best result to date. Symantec claims that each cluster can scale to greater than 2 PB of storage and 200 million files.

The Linux-based FileStore appliances also include native instances of Symantec’s storage software, including  native NetBackup for data protection and  Symantec Endpoint Protection for virus scanning. This twist on NAS services is particularly relevant, since many organizations find it difficult to integrate backup and virus scanning with purpose-built NAS appliances. This has kept many in the Microsoft Windows Server world, and the ability to natively run data protection software is a major selling point for Windows Storage Server-based NAS devices. Although Symantec is quick to point out that FileStore is a choice target for its Enterprise Vault archiving software, the company admits that the software does not include any special EV readiness.

FileStore competes with the clustered NAS offerings from companies like HP (PolyServe and Ibrix), Isilon, EMC’s Celerra, and NetApp GX/OnTap 8. One might also see it as a competitor for “cloud-ready” NAS infrastructure offerings like ParaScale, BlueArc, EMC Atmos, and Permabit, though it is rather simplistic and lacking in features relative to those offerings. In fact, FileStore’s simple construction and immaturity relative to its established competition is likely to offset the value of the Symantec name and Veritas technology during the sales process.

One feature Symantec definitely offers is low cost: FileStore is priced at $5745 per CPU socket at scale with a special starter edition priced at  $6995 for two single-CPU nodes. One must keep in mind that, as a software-only product, apples-to-apples comparisons of FileStore must also take account of the cost of server and storage hardware and integration effort. A maxed-out 16-node dual-CPU cluster would run $184,000 before discounts, hardware, or integration. A quick pricing of typical Dell-brand server, basic direct-attached storage hardware, plus integration reveals an all-in cost of roughly $430,000 or $0.21 per GB for a 2 PB configuration. This is an attractive price point for bulk NAS storage to be sure, but the use of enterprise storage hardware is likely to drive the cost much higher.

FileStore is available now from Symantec and their extensive VAR channel. The company also claims that  Xiotech will sell FileStore in conjunction with their Emprise ISE self-healing modular storage platform. Symantec’s China-based joint venture,  Huawai/Symantec, will use FileStore as well with their OceanStore N8000 NAS line.

SaaSy Symantec

Although Symantec’s strategy calls for the company to be a player in the emerging market for “cloud storage” or managed storage services, FileStore is not a true cloud storage platform yet. The availability of HTTP as an access method looks promising, but it is a simple web server for content, not a programmable REST interface. In fact, FileStore’s use of HTTP as an alternative NAS interface is quite similar to the capability NetApp made available across their Filer line way back in 1998!

To be sure, FileStore is already used to underpin Symantec’s own cloud backup offerings (to the tune of a claimed 42 PB of capacity) as well as the web properties of launch customers like China’s Taobao. But the use of a storage or compute system to underpin a cloud service offering does not make that system “cloudy”. FileStore promises scalability, live upgrades, storage tiering, ease of integration with enterprise services, and administrator familiarity but boasts no real cloud integration capability at this point.

Symantec's cloud strategy calls for an evolution from internal clustering to true cloud object storage

Symantec's cloud strategy calls for an evolution from internal clustering to true cloud object storage

The FileStore presentation lays out Symantec’s wider cloud vision, covering the bases of cloud services including delivering expanded SaaS offerings, enabling the cloud infrastructure of others, and providing hybrid public/private cloud solutions. They also lay out a plan to deliver in 2010 an “object file system” with multi-tenancy, massive scalability, and the cheeky code name, “S4”. Clearly, Symantec plans to be a player in the cloud storage platform space of the future!

About the author

Stephen Foskett

Stephen Foskett is an active participant in the world of enterprise information technology, currently focusing on enterprise storage, server virtualization, networking, and cloud computing. He organizes the popular Tech Field Day event series for Gestalt IT and runs Foskett Services. A long-time voice in the storage industry, Stephen has authored numerous articles for industry publications, and is a popular presenter at industry events. He can be found online at TechFieldDay.com, blog.FoskettS.net, and on Twitter at @SFoskett.

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