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