Startup tailors management software for midmarket

McData founder Jack McDonnell has started a storage management software company to build products that are customized for mid-market users.

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Challenging the storage industry's "one-size-fits-all" approach to management software, former McData Corp. founder and CEO Jack McDonnell started a second company this February, Crosswalk Inc., that aims to sell software packages customized for midmarket users.

Crosswalk has licensed storage resource management software from TekTools Inc. and SANavigator SAN management software from McData and glued the two products together using common interface management (CIM) standards to give midmarket users a single product to manage their storage resources. By uniting physical and logical resources from different vendors into a single CIM-based product, Crosswalk aims to give IT generalists the ability to manage, access and store data without needing storage specialist skills in-house.

"Because of their size, the focus of most midsized companies is on doing business, not building storage solutions," said Rob Kelley, chief technology officer of Crosswalk. Until now, he said IT directors in medium-sized firms have had to choose between two options: either accept the time-consuming manual approach, or contend with the complexity and high cost of an enterprise-focused product. As a result, medium-sized businesses running common applications like Microsoft Corp.'s Microsoft Exchange, Oracle Corp.'s Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server databases, Veritas Software Inc.'s NetBackup and EMC Corp.'s Legato Networker struggle to maintain data availability and to keep these systems running smoothly, he said.

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Crosswalk Storage Manager, targeted at companies with five to 200 servers, an IT budget of $3 million to $20 million or between 100 to 2,000 employees, aims to change that. It includes two products: Crosswalk Knowledge Server, which allows an administrator to gather, visualize and store information for assessing, planning and architecting a storage infrastructure; and Crosswalk Resource Manager, which provides application monitoring and reporting. It generates server, application and device-specific reports for NAS, direct attached storage and SAN environments. It supports Microsoft SQL and Oracle databases, and Microsoft Exchange e-mail systems, and offers backup reporting capabilities for Veritas NetBackup and Backup Exec, Computer Associates International Inc.'s ARCserve, EMC's Legato Networker, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and SyncSort Inc.'s Backup Express. It supports legacy and existing management interfaces, such as SNMP.

Available now, Crosswalk Storage Manager is the first of a series of storage products targeted at this sector of the market. By mid-2005, the company expects to have an active management component to the product, which will let users set an automatic trigger to provision more storage when a system reaches full capacity.

Nancy Hurley, analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said it's good to see a company focusing on the needs of midmarket users who can't afford the high-end tools offered today. "The price tag on CreekPath and AppIQ is even sometimes prohibitive for enterprises," she added. However, she expects Crosswalk to run into the same issues as these other management software companies, namely justifying the cost that users must fork out for these products. "Once you have a very complex network, with multiple fabrics and thousands of ports, that's when they buy into it. In smaller SANs, it's nice to have, but unless it comes for free, it's hard to justify."

Crosswalk's software starts at $5,000. It plans to sell the product through VARs and claims to have several signed up already.

It's worth noting that EMC started down this path of providing management software targeted at midsized companies through its acquisitions of Prisa and Astrum a few years back. However, not much has been said about these products since they were acquired. They are still disparate offerings according to Hurley who said it's unclear how they fit in to the company's ControlCenter management software portfolio. Softek Storage Solution Corp. is another company with products targeted at this sector of the market.

It's easy to see why the vendor community is making such a fuss about this market. International Data Corp. reports that there are over 93,000 North American-based businesses with less than 999 employees, compared to just 9,000 large companies with 1,000 or more employees. These midsized businesses account for about half of North American companies' spending on hardware, software and other IT services, the firm estimates.

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