Cloverleaf targets large SAN/NAS shops

By Dave Simpson

Cloverleaf Communications has begun shipments of an Intelligent Storage Networking (iSN) system that includes a storage administrator's wish list of software functionality. Only a partial listing of the software functions available with the iSN includes centralized, policy-based management services; support for heterogeneous environments; storage virtualization; data protection; disaster recovery; high availability; security; consolidation of storage area network (block) and network-attached storage (file) services; quality of service (QoS); service level agreements (SLAs); writable snapshots (or "virtual replicas"); automated discovery; and storage allocation and provisioning. The software is delivered in a fault-tolerant "SAN-in-a-box" based on the Solaris operating system, multiple SPARC processors, up to 12 server blade controllers, a Fibre Channel fabric with two to eight switches per box, and two to eight Ethernet switches.

More than one storage analyst has referred to the system as "Data-Core or FalconStor on steroids." And Avi Weiss, Cloverleaf's CEO, does in fact consider vendors such as DataCore and FalconStor as the company's main competitors.

However, Cloverleaf's iSN differs from other in-band SAN or virtualization appliances in at least two regards: the breadth of software functionality, and price. Weiss quotes a price of $240,000 for an entry-level configuration, and prices can exceed $1 million.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst with The Taneja Group, says that Cloverleaf is clearly focused primarily on the upper reaches of the Fortune 1000 where companies might have millions of dollars of high-end, heterogeneous disk arrays and very large SANs, but that the iSN system is unique in the breadth of software capabilities and processing power.

"Other SAN appliances can be bottlenecks and some are based on NT, which is a matter of concern for some companies," says Taneja. "The iSN is designed for massive scalability and won't create a bottleneck."

In addition to citing the sheer breadth of software, Taneja points to differentiators such as a very fine level of virtualization granularity, and sophisticated partitioning and provisioning features (somewhat akin to 3PAR's "thin provisioning") that Cloverleaf refers to as "dynamic volume provisioning."

Weiss touts the system's "3-D consolidation" capabilities, which encompass storage, bandwidth, and services. Cloverleaf counts Burlington Coat Factory as an early customer and will sell primarily through systems integrators and solution providers. (UK-based Exquip is the company's first channel partner.)

Cloverleaf is a spin-off of ELTA Systems, a multi-billion-dollar R&D organization in Israel focused largely on the defense industry. The company, which has US headquarters in Southborough, MA, is named after the cloverleaf road intersections designed to eliminate traffic congestion.

This article was originally published on January 01, 2004