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Veritas to unwrap utility plans

Looking to get in on pay-for-use computing, the company plans to announce and demonstrate new software at its user conference next week.

Veritas is looking to hop on the utility computing bandwagon.

The software maker is content to let IBM and Hewlett-Packard rent out the computing gear, but increasingly Veritas wants to cast its software as an essential element of these kinds of services, helping to manage and bill for them.

Utility computing, a concept du jour in which companies pay only for the computing power they use, is more aspiration than reality. Few companies today buy their technology as a utility from a third party, concedes Jeremy Burton, Veritas' chief marketing officer. However, many businesses do want to do so-called charge backs, in which the IT department divides the costs of providing servers and storage among their various business units, Burton said.

To try tapping that market, Veritas is set to announce a program on Monday that it calls Veritas Service Manager. The software, expected by the end of the year, is designed to track the level of service provided by an IT department and bill them accordingly.

"We're not building pipes and hardware infrastructure," Burton said. "There are plenty of hardware companies out there."

But increasingly, Veritas is also bumping up against those hardware makers even in the software market. Hardware makers see software as a way to fight declining disk prices as well as offer another way to stand out from rivals.

EMC has been particularly aggressive in building a software portfolio to go after Veritas' market, but HP and IBM also have products designed to help make storage more manageable.

"EMC continues to be aggressive in the storage software market," AG Edwards analyst Shebly Seyrafi wrote in a research report on Veritas earlier this week. "Although we continue to admire Veritas' open storage software approach, we believe EMC's recent aggressiveness with its AutoIS initiative should increase the competitive playing field longer term."

Last week, EMC announced improvements to its PowerPath management software that adds a built-in volume manager, a software component Veritas has offered for some time.

Both EMC and Veritas are also trying to write software that can reside on storage networking gear, something they see as an emerging trend.

Also this week, Veritas is expected to demonstrate some of its software operating on a switch, something it has been talking about for nearly a year. Last week, EMC announced a deal to resell a high-end switch from Cisco Systems. As part of that announcement, EMC said it will write software that can run on Cisco's gear.

The transition to running software on the network rather than on servers is expected to take time, and indeed is likely to be only a partial shift.

"Ultimately, I believe customers will look at this as far as how they run their shops and they'll want both," Veritas CEO Gary Bloom said in a recent interview. "They are going to want to provision storage from the server, and they are going to want to provision some of their storage from the network."

Bill North, an IDC research director, said Veritas is outlining how the company's pending and just-completed acquisitions fit into a broader strategy. With its recently completed Jareva Technologies buy and its pending purchase of Precise Software, North said Veritas has positioned itself to manage a company's technology, from the applications that create the data to the disk arrays where the information is stored.

"I think it is a very strong statement," he said. "Other companies are talking about utility computing. I think this is Veritas saying, 'We are going to play in this space.'"

Veritas' announcements come at the start of the company's week-long user conference in Las Vegas. However, some Veritas agents arrived early to Sin City. A gaggle of people showed up at EMC's Technology Summit last week wearing Veritas' "No Hardware Agenda" T-shirts.