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Low-end SAN push continues

Brocade joins a long list of vendors to steadily push their way into small and medium-sized businesses.

NEW YORK -- At this week's RBC Capital Markets SAN Conference, storage switch giant Brocade Communications Systems...

Inc. joined a long list of vendors and experts who say they recognize that storage area networks, once a luxury of the biggest data centers on the planet, are steadily pushing their way into small and medium-sized businesses.

"The interesting thing is that SANs are penetrating smaller environments," said Tony Canova, Brocade's vice president of finance and its chief financial officer.

Brocade recently targeted the lower end of the SAN world when it released the SilkWorm 3200, an 8-port, 2G bit/sec unit priced at about $1,000 per port.

Fellow storage juggernaut EMC Corp. tested the low-end waters with its smallest Clariion storage system last October, when it launched the CX 200. EMC leveraged its relationship with Dell Computer Corp. to sell and manufacture the entry-level Clariion server.

An even more potent push into the entry-level SAN market came in early 2002, when more than 30 storage hardware and software vendors, including Quantum Corp., Seagate Technology Corp. and Computer Associates International Inc., set out to prove that end users could implement a SAN for less than $50,000.

The companies offered SAN configurations made up of disk systems, tape and storage management software for those wary of opening their wallets.

Brocade's Canova also pointed out that small businesses heavily favor the Windows NT architecture. Analysts agree that Windows NT is a major platform in data centers, but not just for servers.

"It's very critical to understand Windows NT systems, but not just for SANs," said Mike Karp, a senior analyst with Boulder, Colo.-based Enterprise Management Associates Inc. "You must also remember there are lots of [Microsoft Server Appliance Kit]-based NAS servers out there, and many of those could be consolidated on a SAN."

Karp said Hewlett-Packard Co. has addressed the low-end SAN market, as have Sun Microsystems Inc. and EMC to a much more limited degree.

He added that low-end and remote SANs are at least as likely to be based on the iSCSI protocol during the next few years. "It's cheaper to implement and manage storage when one considers the training and infrastructure costs involved."

Mike Fisch, an analyst for the Wellesley, Mass.-based Clipper Group Inc., believes the Windows operating systems have been adequately addressed by storage vendors. He said that to penetrate the low-end SAN market, vendors have to lower costs per switch port, bundle storage with host bus adapters and software, and simplify storage management.


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

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