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Inrange claims third place in high-end switches

San Francisco - Inrange Technology is now claiming the number-three position in the high-end 'director class' fiber channel hub and switch market, after Brocade and McData. A year after its entry into the market, the Lumberton, New Jersey-based company, which only began shipping its first 64-port systems in the middle of last year, accounted for about 15% of factory revenues in 2000, according to the latest figures from IDC. This week, it signed a deal with DataCore that should help it gain more of a hold on the storage area networking market.

IDC says the combined factory revenue from fiber channel hubs and switches grew to $694 million in 2000, a 194% increase over 1999 -- and it's expected to top $1bn this year. Brocade continues to dominate the overall fabric switch market, followed by QLogic. But it's the high end of the market that's growing the fastest. The IDC figures predict that sales of fabric switch ports will grow at a compound annual rate of 69% between 2000 and 2004. Director-class switch ports will grow 112% over the same period, IDC believes.

Brocade has fallen behind in this sector. Its first 64-port product, the Silkworm 6400, only began shipping this year, and its first 128-port products aren't due out until toward the end of this year. Meanwhile, Inrange's 128-port IN-VSN FC/9000 became generally available in March, and a 256-port version is expected to ship at around the same time as Brocade's 128-port box. At the low-end, Inrange is selling QLogic switches and host bus adapters, and plans to use QLogic's 2Gb switch-on-a-chip ASIC chips in products due out shortly.

According to Charles Foley, Inrange's VP of marketing and chief technology officer, the DataCore agreement will enable common access to data, easier expansion and more cost-effective resource management. It's intended to help simplify the development and management of storage area networks. "We lay the infrastructure and DataCore puts a layer of virtualization and intelligence on top," he says. It's primarily a certification agreement. Foley says that DataCore and Veritas -- which compete against each other -- are Inrange's biggest partners.

Meanwhile, Inrange is continuing to build itself up. Earlier this month, it acquired Onex, a consulting firm, on undisclosed terms. Back in January, it acquired another, Prevail Technology, and now has 625 staff in its global sales and services organization. That's more direct sales and support people than any of its competitors, who typically sell through OEMs and resellers.

Inrange also sells through IBM, which recently agreed to a reseller and services arrangement for the 128-port FC/9000. It will be used with both open systems and with IBM's mainframe-oriented FICON storage network base. IBM had an existing agreement for Inrange's 64-port systems.

First-quarter revenue at Inrange reached $68.9 million, up 38% from the same quarter last year, and income of $3 million, excluding amortization charges. Within that, open storage revenues were $21.2 million, up 235% over last year and 20% sequentially -- mostly fueled by sales of the 128-port switch.

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