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SAN vendors target mid-size companies

Several storage vendors are targeting new, cheaper SAN products at users with small-to-medium storage environments.

Now that storage area network (SAN) vendors have penetrated the high-end storage environment, they're targeting a segment that's untapped and wide open -- the mid-size company. These companies have got the need, but not necessarily the cash for a high-end enterprise type SAN. As a result, a number of vendors have brought to market low-end products with very attractive price points.

Last month, a consortium spearheaded by QLogic Corp., and a number of its partners announced the "Affordable SAN Initiative" -- a campaign to prove that the price of SANs is dropping fast. Since then other vendors have followed suit and debuted SAN switches and appliances that put the technology within the reach of smaller IT houses.

One of QLogic's competitors and one of the biggest player in the switch market, Brocade Communications Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif., put its low-end offering into play. Brocade launched the SilkWorm 3200, an 8-port, 2 Gigabit per second (Gbit/sec) Fabric switch that targets mid-range business looking for entry-level SANs.

Prior to Brocade's announcement, QLogic launched an 8-port 2Gbit/sec Fibre Channel switch of its own at a cost of about $800.

But the switch makers aren't the only ones driving down the cost of SAN components.

"The knock against first generation SANs for departmental and workgroup use has been they're difficult to install, difficult to manage, and expensive," said Jim Hughes, spokesperson for DataDirect Networks Inc.

Hughes said DataDirect's new storage appliance deflates that argument.

DataDirect Networks Inc., debuted a new appliance this week, the Silicon Storage Appliance, to serve the needs of departmental-level computing and workgroup applications.

DataDirect said the S2A 3000 Silicon Storage Appliance is a simple to deploy, easy to manage and affordable storage network appliance that allows small to mid-size businesses to achieve application performance gains, scalability and simplified management.

Each S2A 3000 Silicon Storage Appliance supplies an aggregate bandwidth from 100 to 400MB/sec to workgroups typically consisting of one to eight Linux, Unix, Windows NT/2000, Sun, AIX, HP-UX and SGI compute nodes. The S2A 3000 can manage storage network environments ranging in capacity from 500GB to 7 T Bytes at a starting price of $39,000.

Mike Karp, senior analyst for Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, Colo., said it's clear that vendors are addressing the need for lower cost SANs.

But, he said, lower cost switches are not the only game in town. Pre-configured "SAN-in-a-can" offerings are pushing into the low-end as well.

"It's not just smaller companies that are interested in lower cost SANs," he said. "Bigger companies are still trying out the [SAN] concept. They're still shaking down the technology."

Karp said switch vendors are able to lower their prices as they improve manufacturing methods and incorporate more sophisticated processors into their respective product lines.

"As [application-specific integrated circuits] get more sophisticated the price goes down," he said.

He said the need for low-end SANs is apparent and a lot of companies are looking to enable the entry-level market.

"A lot of folks that couldn't afford SAN technology are looking to stick their toes in the water," he said.

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


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