You can't manage what you can't see: gaining visibility

One of the biggest problems that security professionals and system administrators face is lack of visibility. While blind spots have always existed, technologies like virtualization and cloud computing are making the need to see into their operations even more critical.

As more and more services and applications are virtualized or moved into the cloud, it becomes imperative that organizations gain a greater visibility into what those IT assets are doing. This imperative is driven in part by regulations and industry mandates whose enforcement is continually being stepped up, as well as new and increasing threats coming from every angle.

CASE STUDY: AirTran: Virtualization requires network visibility

Organizations need to know what is happening with every virtual machine in real time. This requires information to be fed back to tools that automate the security, control and distribution of application workloads across the production server environment. It is difficult to provision resources, protect against threats and enforce compliance policies when you can't see what is really happening within the network.

Today any systems management vendor worth its salt is working on how to help organizations better gain complete visibility into the ever changing IT environment. One vendor that continues to do quite a bit in this area is Symantec.

I have been following Symantec for many years, and like you, I scratched my head at some of their acquisitions and what looked like a shotgun approach to addressing enterprise needs. Take, for example, the Altiris acquisition in 2007. Many people assumed the purchase was all about Altiris' endpoint management. As time went by, the wisdom in Symantec's decision became apparent: Altiris brought to the table an underlying architecture that has been leveraged to integrate the entire Symantec product suite in a way that allows Symantec customers to have a single pane of glass view into their infrastructure.

Another acquisition that is sure to continue paying high dividends is Veritas Software, which joined the Symantec portfolio in 2004.

From this year's recent Symantec Vision conference, it was clear to me that the strategic approach Symantec has taken over the years has and will continue to help organizations gain increased visibility into today's IT environment and the threats that continually challenge it. This is specifically true in the area of virtualization with their Veritas Operations Manager (VOM) 4.0 and V-Ray, which is Symantec's "X-ray vision" into the virtual computing environment. Let's have a look at what I expect these two products to do for enterprise organizations.

Veritas Operations Manager 4.0

As organizations continue to drive data center and server consolidation initiatives and leverage virtualization technologies to do so, all the challenges associated with optimizing, protecting and troubleshooting applications apply to virtualized networks -- but with exponentially more complexity and urgency due to a distinct lack of visibility and control across the physical to virtual environments.

Symantec's VOM 4.0 is a centralized platform for managing its Storage Foundation and Cluster Server modules which automate tasks and monitor the health of storage resources. VOM 4.0 is designed to provide IT professionals increased visibility to better manage and control critical business services across physical, virtual and cloud environments.

According to Symantec, VOM 4.0 will provide extensive support across operating systems, server virtualization, and physical server and storage platforms. This integration will provide a single pane of glass across the infrastructure to deliver cross-platform visibility. Through this consolidated view, VOM 4.0 will further enable centralized management of an organization's storage environments, and the underlying dependencies for applications running in their virtual environments. Ultimately this will reduce risk of outages and provide timely operations and control information to help direct action to be taken in resolving operational issues, maintenance, and provisioning.

During my time at Vision, I saw impressive demos of the Beta version of VOM 4.0, which is currently scheduled to be released in early 2012.

V-Ray

What is Symantec V-Ray? It's not an actual product; it's better described as the concept of "Visibility for Virtual Environments." V-Ray vision allows companies to visualize what's inside their virtual environment so they can better secure, protect, backup and recover virtual machines. Despite the "virtual" name tag, virtual machines must be managed, protected and controlled as well as physical machines.

Symantec executives say V-Ray visibility is enabled by an aggregation of Symantec technologies delivered across the Symantec products that support virtual environments. More specifically, this would be management, security, storage, backup and recoverability. With greater visibility into their virtual environments, organizations acquire the ability to simplify management of these environments.

Initially released as functionality within NetBackup and Backup Exec, V-Ray allows these products to identify files within virtual machine images, enabling file-level recovery and identifying duplicate files to help reduce redundancy. V-Ray technology also will be leveraged by the Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP) suite, allowing quicker scanning when SEP knows which files have already been scanned and which have changed.

Combined, these features allow these virtual environment management products to interact more holistically, sharing configuration information and other metadata.

From what I gleaned from conversations with Symantec executives, V-Ray will eventually extend to the entire Symantec software portfolio to provide a single pane of glass view into both the physical and virtual environments. If this is the case, then it would appear Symantec will enable organizations to adapt and manage their environments with something that has been lacking: visibility.

Brian Musthaler is a principal consultant with Essential Solutions Corporation. You can write to him at Bmusthaler@essential-iws.com.

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About Essential Solutions Corp: Essential Solutions researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.

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