Enclosure firm launches its own storage systems

Storage manufacturer JMR Electronics has moved from making enclosures for OEMs to making a series of storage systems on its own. The company has a pair of IDE storage systems with SCSI and Fibre Channel support.

Vendors have been battling over bits and bytes for decades, trying to gain supremacy in the storage market. One company has been behind the scenes casting the iron and supplying the enclosures to all of the combatants, but no more. JMR Electronics Inc. has unsheathed its own storage system and is trying to carve its own niche in this competitive market.

Chatsworth, Calif.-based JMR Electronics, traditionally a storage enclosure supplier, announced the Fortra IDE line of storage systems, a set of 3U storage systems available in Ultra 160 SCSI or 2 GB Fibre Channel configurations.

"We're one of the oldest storage companies, and nobody knows about our existence," said Josef Rabinovitz, president and CEO of JMR Electronics.

Rabinovitz said JMR started with hard drive products for Apple Computer and Radio Shack and moved into building storage enclosures. "We are starting to do more total system integration," he said.

However, Rabinovitz said, JMR will not abandon its bread and butter OEM customers. "The market is changing and we still support our customers," he said. "Our goal is not to go in and start selling systems and competing against our customers."

JMR said the Fortra IDE line, with a 64-bit architecture, distributes and processes data at speeds that range from 135M bit/sec to 200M bit/sec.

The IDE arrays feature a dedicated XOR ASIC and firmware function run by the PowerPC 603e/750 RISC processor. The company said its dual, independent PCI bus design eliminates bandwidth bottlenecks for IO traffic, allowing overall system performance to reach up to 135M bit/sec with the Ultra160 SCSI model, for example, and up to 200M bit/sec with the 2 GB Fibre Channel version.

The RAID array in all models can be configured to levels 0, 1, 3, 5 and 10. Each array allows one drive failure without impact on the existing data, and drive rebuild is transparent to the host and system, according to JMR.

The Fibre-to-IDE system has a maximum capacity of 1.92 terabytes (TB) per enclosure; ATA disk support; up to 1 GB cache memory; an embedded, single-channel RAID controller; hot-swappable drives; dual hot-swappable power supplies; dual hot-swappable blowers; and software to create and manage RAID arrays. The SCSI-to-IDE system scales to 1.92 TB capacity and features the same configurations.

John McArthur, group vice president for storage research at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., said JMR has been a good enclosure supplier for some time, outlasting and outperforming some of its weaker competitors.

"They have been moving up market and this is a natural extension for the company," McArthur said. "Many of the larger storage systems companies are making a decision to outsource portions of the business that are potentially lower-margin or where there is a perception that [they] add little incremental value or lack a core competency."

He pointed to EMC Corp. outsourcing manufacturing operations of the CX200 to Dell Computer Corp., IBM Corp. using LSI Logic Storage Systems for its FastT line, and Network Appliance turning over its enclosure business to Xyratex.

"The emerging markets for IDE and Serial ATA-based storage systems are precisely the kind of thing that will be good for system manufacturers to outsource," McArthur said. "One could envision enclosure suppliers such as JMR and disk drive suppliers all considering making a complete system for the larger system houses."

He added that JMR will ultimately compete against higher-end companies such as LSI Logic Storage Systems, Xyratex and Eurologic. "They could also compete with or partner with drive companies," McArthur said.

Fortra IDE systems are available now, with MSRP pricing starting at $9,950 for SCSI-IDE and $10,950 for Fibre-IDE.

Let us know what you think about the story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

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