Veritas Visual Administrator (vxva)

(Also known as Online Data Manager or ODM

and as Volume Manager on other platforms)

New with Unixware 7 is the inclusion of a limited version of the Veritas Visual Administrator (also called Unixware 7 Online Data Manager) with the Enterprise version. The full version can also be licensed at extra cost, and includes such capabilities as on-line backup (done rather cleverly: a spare disk is used to hold original data only if it is changed on the disk to be backed up. Typically this means that only a small amount of copying has to be done; most reads can be handled from the original disk. Search for snapshot in the Unixware 7 Help system for a full explanation).

This is a great product. Filesystems can be shrunk and grown, it handles concatenation, mirroring and Raid 5, with a GUI interface and has a complete command line capability (for an explanation of Raid, see RAID).

However, the product can be difficult to use. I cannot be the only person who has struggled to understand this. I even took a Sun course (Sun also licenses this product for their disk arrays), and passed a required certification exam, yet a year later I found myself again helpless and confused by the interface.

Most of the problem is that the interface really isn't all that good. Menu items that cannot be accomplished given the objects you have selected are inconsistently available, and give near useless error messages should you mistakenly attempt the operation. Further, the status for objects is indicated by using different colors, and until you are very familiar with the meaning of these choices, you are often mystified as to what state an object is in, or may not even notice that its state has changed.

There is a demo mode available (run vxva &nbsp-t), and no matter how badly you screw it up you can return things to the beginning state by running /opt/vxvm-va/bin/vxva_setup. However, the demo mode is fairly simplistic and limited: you cannot, for example, create filesystems in the demo.

The best way to learn it is to have some spare disks to play with. The disks don't have to be identical; I mixed internal and external and even threw a Jaz drive in. If you are going to use real disks, you will need to run vxinstall. Read the documentation first. That's good advice with any product, but with Volume Manager, it would be close to suicidal not to. At the very least read the Getting Started before playing with real disks.

In general, the documentation is extensive and intimidating. It also can be confusing: for example, the mouse is assumed to be a 3 button model, which is standard fare on proprietary workstations, but unusual on PC's.

At least on my system, the color choices when running under CDE were impossible. Icons were difficult to see, some forms were completely invisible, and so on. Rather than mucking with changing the colors, you might want to just run an old style Open Desktop or Panorama session; you can do that by running startx (if you do want a CDE session, it's startx &nbsp-cde ). The on-line reference does include a complete listing of the X-Resources available in the /opt/vxva/app-defaults file and does fully explain their function, so you certainly can adjust colors to your needs or preferences. I wish every X app was so fully documented.

One of the first things you will want to do is turn on the command window. This will show the commands issued by the GUI (all GUI functions call actual commands; there's nothing built in).

The next step is to try to gain some familiarity with what operations are possible and what you have to do to make them happen. Some things can be very simple: if you start out with empty disks, and have done nothing else beyond bringing them under Volume Manager control (which you may have accomplished when you ran vxinstall), you can just drag down the Basic-Ops menu and create file systems. The GUI will do all the grunt work of creating subdisks, plexes, and volumes.

Subdisks? Plexes? Volumes? Yes, the terminology is a little different. It's not all that hard to comprehend, though. Complete documentation is provided in the on-line reference, and is also available over the internet at http://www.xinuos.com/index.php/product-support/documentation

Briefly, Veritas Volumes are the entities which you would build a file system on. A Volume contains one or more Plexes. Plexes are built from Subdisks, which are simply regions carved out of physical disks. A Volume can span multiple disks either through concatenation (when the first plex is full, data continues on the next), striping, or full Raid 5 configuration. Mirroring of Volumes is also supported by multiple Plexes.

As I indicated above, most operations can be done from the Basic-Ops menu, which will save you from understanding these grisly details. However, not everything can be done that way, and not understanding the entire process can lead to complete confusion later. I therefore recommend that you read the manuals. The documentation gives step by step instructions for creating mirrors, striped mirrors, Raid 5 Volumes and everything else. In most cases, the documentation offers both a Basic and an Advanced method, and it is the Advanced that I recommend you at least work through mentally.


(c) September 1998 A.P. Lawrence. All rights reserved



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