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OEM deals for LeftHand Networks will pull its software into more sophisticated storage environments

Users interested in low-cost IP SANs might want to take a look at what LeftHand Networks is up to.

The Boulder, Colorado -based company is announcing OEM deals this week with storage router-maker Crossroads and an unnamed Fortune 100 IT company, both of which will embed LeftHand's storage clustering software in their products.

The skittish Fortune 100 partner sounds suspiciously like HP, but LeftHand's Director of Marketing, Tom Major is keeping the identity of its partner on the q.t. "It's a big player in the Intel server world, making a splash in the SMB market, that's all I can say," he says. Hardly giving the game away there! But a bit of digging by has revealed that Tom was formally general manager of HP's OpenView business unit. We'll leave you to connect the dots...

More importantly, what do these OEM deals mean for storage managers considering LeftHand's products?

To date the company has sold its software bundled with an Intel server, direct to customers. It has a hundred or so paying users 80% of whom are in the SMB (small to medium business) market. "Our OEM wins will take us into more sophisticated storage environments – departments of larger enterprises," says Major.

LeftHand's unnamed server partner is turning its boxes with 8-12 disk drives and two Gigabit Ethernet ports into a low-end IP SAN offering by packing them with LeftHand's storage management software, according to Major. "It's the storage equivalent of large Linux clusters in the supercomputing world," he boasts.

LeftHand claims its clustering, virtualization and replication features enable IT managers to create a scalable pool of storage that may be shared by all the application and database servers on the network. This pool appears to the servers as a local disk drive that scales in both performance and capacity as additional servers containing the software are added, the company says. Pricing and availability and the name of this mysterious partner will be revealed at SNW next month, according to Major.

With Crossroads, LeftHand is tackling the issue of connecting Wintel servers to conventional FC SANs without the added expense of FC HBAs. LeftHand is moving its software directly on to the network by porting it to the Crossroads router. This pizza-box sized device attaches to an FC SAN on one side and any stranded Wintel servers on the other. "The storage is provisioned by [our software in] the Crossroads router back to the servers…It means that the Wintel guys who don't have backup expertise, can leave this to the FC guys so that backups get more organized and are managed appropriately," says Major. "Some companies have thousands of stranded DAS Wintels and this is a way to rope them all together."

He notes that the Crossroads router with LeftHand's software will cost around $20,000 when configured to support 20 servers. Compare that with the price of a FC HBA plus a switch port for $1500 to $2000 per server, "And it becomes a very compelling offer," he says.

The downside is yet another box to manage on the network. And managing the access rights gets more and more complicated as the number of servers grows. LeftHand argues that its clustering software enables each box to provide access to all the data no matter where its stored, which simplifies the management process.

For alternatives, check out DataCore and FalconStor that offer network-based appliances which perform the same kind of functions.


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