Western Digital forms SAN management spin-off

Hard drive maker Western Digital Corp. spun off a new company from its Connex subsidiary on Monday to focus solely on the storage area network (SAN) software market.

The new company, SANavigator, Inc., develops and markets SAN management software tools.

Robert Wright, who headed the development of the SANavigator product at Connex will manage SANavigator Inc. as president and chief operating officer. The entire SANavigator product team will become part of the new company. Connex, will continue producing its line of multi-protocol network-attached storage (NAS) systems and software.

Wright said that the company has been mulling over the idea of separating the NAS and SAN management businesses for some time. "I'm glad we got it done," he said. " It's an issue of focus. The storage management software sector is flourishing."

Under the structure of the new hierarchy, SANavigator, Inc., will function as a subsidiary of Connex, which is in turn a subsidiary of Western Digital. Wright said that there is a possibility that SANavigator may become a sister company to Connex somewhere down the road.

Wright said that he expects the separation of the two companies will be exceptionally smooth since the NAS business and the SANavigator side of things have been operating as separate entities for some time under the Connex name. The two branches coexist in the same San Jose, Calif., location, but in two separate buildings. "There's always some bumps that you go through, but I expect it will be pretty seamless," said Wright. "We believe the sum of the two smaller companies will be of greater value than the one larger company."

Senior analyst for the Enterprise Storage Group, Nancy Marrone said that spinning-off SANavigator is a sound strategy, even in the currently tumultuous storage market. In fact, she said, success in the potentially huge SAN management market requires a focused organization.

"This is definitely a smart move," said Marrone. SANavigator, Inc., will be able to focus on their core competency and compete with other vendors in this space like Prisa and Veritas." She added that SAN management is not a market that a company should just dabble in. "This move provides focus that SANavigator would not have had as a part of Connex."

SANavigator is a Java-based storage management application that operates as a host for other storage management applications, utilities and tools from other storage vendors. It lists among its features auto discovery, point-and-click data path zoning, a real-time display of the entire SAN topology and support for all Microsoft Windows platforms, Solaris and Linux.

The company is developing additional modules that will debut in April and will add additional functionality to the SANavigator software. The company's roadmap lists applications in the areas of performance monitoring and SAN planning.

According to industry analyst firm Gartner Group, the storage management software business is expected to grow to $14.7 billion by 2004.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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