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Executive vision: XIOtech growth is proof of SAN momentum says CEO

In this continuing series of interviews with the CEOs of major storage companies attending the Merrill Lynch Storage Technology Conference in Santa Barbara recently, searchStorage talks to Phil Soran, president and CEO of XIOtech Corp.

A subsidiary of Seagate Technology, Inc. XIOTech develops and manufactures Storage Area Network (SAN) products. The Eden Prairie, Minn.-based company has been aggressive in its promotion of SAN technology, including a $10 million investment that helps emerging companies purchase SAN hardware and software. XIOTech is also actively involved in the Storage Networking Industry Association and the Fibre Channel Industry Association. XIOtech's core product, Magnitude SAN is based on XIOtech's exclusive Real-Time Data Intelligence (REDI) Storage Architecture, which was the first in the industry to incorporate storage virtualization.

There's a lot of talk about SANs, but it's a technology that seems a little slow to take off. Why?
We feel that SAN implementations are beginning to take off right now -- our own momentum is proof of that. When customers realize how easy it is to implement a XIOtech Magnitude SAN -- it takes less than an hour to install-- they are very excited. I believe that ease of implementation and management are among the key elements to our product?s success.

Meanwhile, the industry is beginning to realize that in order for SAN customers to react quickly to business requirements, they need storage systems that allow them the freedom to easily and quickly configure storage environments to meet their needs. When SANs fully meet these requirements, SAN technology will be a fundamental part of all IT environments.

The business impact of SAN technology is so great that managed network storage is here to stay. That doesn't mean that protocols and platforms won't change, but SAN technology will only improve with time. XIOtech has recently stepped up its involvement in developing fibre channel standards. When bigger companies are leaving these groups, why are you entering?
We feel that it is important to be part of the development of new standards and protocols. In fact, we believe that we are farther along in SAN technology than most companies. By becoming involved in these groups, we can help our partners and the industry by sharing what we've learned.

One of the benefits we offer customers is peace of mind. Our technology was designed to easily adapt to new standards and protocols as they are developed. Our virtualized architecture is very flexible, allowing us to interoperate and rapidly adjust to any changes that may occur. However, we can't wait to hear through the grapevine what new technologies are being developed. We need to be involved in the creation of the standards and help drive the industry to develop positive standards and protocols. Our strong Seagate backing helps us to be an integral part of the standards community. You've initiated a program to make SAN affordable. Why was it necessary to take such measures?
In order to stand out in a crowded network storage market, it is important for us to differentiate ourselves. Our technology, the REDI Storage Architecture, allows users many benefits, one of which is affordability. Yet once customers install our system, they quickly find that our virtualized architecture also makes their SAN both easy to use (no rocket scientists required) and easy to grow at the speed of their business growth. With our system you don't have to guess how much storage your business will need in the future; it's effortless to add more storage capacity when it's needed and without taking the system down.

Many of our competitors offer storage systems and service contracts that are extremely expensive. We can prove that SANs do not have to cost an arm and a leg to deliver the benefits that customers seek. Any predictions as to when this intense demand for storage resources will peak?
We feel that we are still a long way from the peak. The types of data that are now being stored such as audio, video and graphics, combined with the easier access to data through the Internet is creating larger and larger storage environments. With businesses now replicating their data for disaster recovery and fault tolerance, the amount of data being stored is mind-boggling. We feel that the situation is only going to grow. As network and Internet connections become faster, more data will be viewed more rapidly. We have not seen the peak yet -- I don't think we'll see the peak for quite some time. What will be the next product to revolutionize the way businesses manage storage?
We don't feel that it will be a product. We know that it will be an architecture -- and we are certain that seamless storage virtualization will be that technology. As the Internet and other data-intensive environments require businesses to move more quickly and as data is required 24x7, the ability to manage all of this data from a common interface will be essential. Storage virtualization allows users to do this easily and with no downtime to users.

We're already shipping our third-generation of virtualization software and other companies are beginning to talk about virtualization as well. The industry knows it's an important technology, and we feel strongly that storage virtualization, as it continues to evolve, will revolutionize storage management.

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