Storage vendors start small

Offering a piecemeal approach to storage infrastructure acquisition, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s launch on Monday of scaleable SAN products reflects interest in mid-range storage solution by competitors including EMC Corp. and Overland Data Inc.

According to analysts, while these systems can scale out and attach to enterprise-class storage networks, the concept of starting small is gaining traction in the current economy.

Companies realize that many of the tools once found only in high-end storage products are now available in mid-tier systems, said Arun Taneja, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

"What's happening is now even mid-range companies have the same set of SAN issues as enterprise customers. So what we have started to see is a number of companies that have started to target that market," said Taneja.

Aiming to offer a scalable architecture, Sun on Monday will announce a number of additions to its SAN product family, according to Kathleen Holmgren, the senior vice president of Sun's network storage solutions division.

Sun will make available a range of 2Gb SAN switches including a Sun StorEdge 16-port switch, and two other switches resold from switch vendors McData Corp. and Brocade Communications Systems Inc., according to Sun representatives.

Sun will announce certification of Brocade's 16-port switches as well as the company's 64-port director switch. Support for McData's Intrepid 6064 director switch will also be announced. And helping to sew the SAN together, Sun will roll out new single-port and dual-port 2Gb PCI HBAs, according to Sun.

On the storage software side, Sun will release new StorEdge Diagnostic Expert software along with an upgraded version of its StorEdge Resource Management and Availability software suites.

StorEdge Diagnostic Expert software helps users spot SAN problems in real time and offers advice as to how to take corrective action.

Sun's StorEdge Resource Management Suite 6.0 offers users a single console management of the SAN with the ability to see how SAN resources are allocated across individual storage servers, according to Sun.

Upgrades to Sun's Resource Management suite include the ability to chart predictive trends in storage use, automate tasks, and create customer reports on SAN status.

With the new products Sun can better support customers running heterogeneous SANs containing platforms running Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Linux, HP/UX, and IBM AIX, according to representatives for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun.

The systems also better allow customers to first install small or midsize SANs and scale outwards as large as necessary, according to Holmgren.

"What's great about our SAN is customers can take the same infrastructure and start small, work through the mid-market environment, and take that technology and expand it larger and larger until they move into the data center level," said Holmgren.

Also recognizing the value of starting small and scaling out, EMC last week reported it is extending its reach into the middle and lower-end storage markets.

EMC plans to take its expertise in high-end enterprise storage and migrate the technology to a range of new storage hardware and software offers expected to arrive over the next nine months, according to EMC president and CEO Joe Tucci.

"We designed systems for the high-end market," said Tucci, "so we missed the medium and small business."

Based on commodity-grade Intel chips and built, initially, by EMC channel partner Dell Computer Corp., the new EMC storage products for midsize and small companies will mark a significant change in the tradition EMC way of designing storage.

Future EMC storage systems for small businesses will be "integrated storage appliances" that run Microsoft's Windows operating system, traffic both block and file data, and contain mixed technologies to deliver the functionality of a SAN device, a NAS (network attached storage) device, and a backup device.

EMC's products for the mid-range market will offer "centralized intelligent capacity" in a modular storage architecture that allows customers to add or subtract multiple storage functionality.

Overland Data and Astrum Software Corp. this week announced a joint development relationship to bring advanced SRM (storage resource management) to Overland's mid-market storage customers.

Astrum's SRM technology can help storage network administrators to see actual client storage capacity usage in a network and manage the capacity accordingly, explained Taneja.

The Overland-branded SRM technology is immediately available for Overland storage customers in the form of Overland's Storage Resource Manager software, said John Cloyd, the vice president and general manager of Overland's Storage Management Business Unit, in San Diego.

Also this week, LiveVault Corp. announced improvements to the company's online backup and recovery service in an effort to better serve the business continuity requirements of small to midsize businesses, according to LiveVault representatives in Marlborough, Mass.

Upgrades to the LiveVault products include support for SAN, NAS, and clustered servers. The upgrade also delivers a 500 percent increase in the amount of storage capacity the software can protect, according to Live Vault.

In the same way that high-end storage technology has found its way into mid-range storage systems, high-end storage problems have also trickled down into midsize companies, something vendors now recognize, said Taneja.

"Mid-range enterprises have the same darn set of issues that enterprises do, and particularly the mid-range customer that doesn't have the same IT structure, or doesn't have the same expertise in-house. So they are more likely to actually buy something that is targeted to the mid-range enterprise and comes in a simplified package," said Taneja.

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