Brace yourself for an onslaught of start-ups

By Dave Simpson

According to B2B Data Corp. (www.b2bdatacorp.com), 108 storage vendors—the majority of which were start-ups—received funding over the last two years. The amount of venture capital that poured into these fledglings is staggering, given the economic environment.

Obviously, the storage market can't accommodate this influx, and a lot of the start-ups (which were funded 18 to 24 months ago, back in the good old days) either won't survive or will be acquired by the big players. (For example, Cereva Networks last month closed its doors after receiving more than $137 million in funding over the last four years.)

But a few will survive, and they deserve your consideration. Most of the start-ups are gunning at market leaders like EMC and Network Appliance, which are saddled with aging architectures. And on paper at least, some of the start-ups have built a better mousetrap. That typically equates to "better performance," but few IT storage administrators buy products based on performance alone. For most IT managers, service and support are more important than performance, and that's the Achilles heel of the start-ups and the major advantage of the established players.

Another thing about many of these start-ups is that they sometimes put technological prowess ahead of end-user needs. Take one "hot" example: NAS-SAN convergence. In the relatively simple approach, most of the established players have put together network-attached storage (NAS) heads that serve as front-ends to back-end storage area networks (SANs). Big deal. More intriguingly, a handful of start-ups are actually merging the two architectures with software and hardware that can handle both block- and file-level I/O.

From a technology perspective, this is extremely cool stuff. But how many users really need, or want, to merge NAS and SAN? In most IT shops that I've been to, they have NAS filers in department/application A, direct-attached storage in department/application B, and maybe a SAN for another set of applications. Each architecture was chosen based on price/performance/features requirements, and there's just no need to merge architectures—let alone allow data sharing between the various departments.

I'm not suggesting that NAS-SAN convergence is just technology for technology's sake. Many IT shops could, in fact, benefit from combining the best of both architectures in one system. But those shops are in the minority.

Consider this: In a survey of 323 IT managers, conducted by Peripheral Concepts, one-third of the respondents didn't even know if they had a SAN or NAS! (See "Survey reveals user priorities, SAN/NAS adoption rate," InfoStor, May 2002, p. 1.) Obviously, those managers aren't quite ready to merge NAS and SAN.

The heady economic days of two years ago gave rise to way too many start-ups, and now we're going to pay the price with an onslaught of technology that may be years ahead of actual end-user need.

Dave Simpson,

Start-up sampler
1Vision Software, 3PAR Data, Acirro, Agile Storage, Arkivio, Arsenal Digital, BlueArc, Broadband Storage, Coalsere, CreekPath, EVault, FalconStor, Ibrix, InfiniCon, InterSAN, Isilon Systems, LeftHand Networks, LightSand, Maranti Networks, Maximum Throughput, MaXXan Systems, NeoScale, Nexsan Technologies, OuterBay, Panasas, Pirus Networks, Rasvia Systems, SANcastle, SAN Valley, Sanera, SANgate, Sanrise, Scale Eight, Silverback, Sistina Software, Spinnaker Networks, StoneFly Networks, Storigen, TeraCloud, Trebia Networks, TrueSAN, Voltaire, YottaYotta, Zambeel, Z-force.

This article was originally published on July 01, 2002