Fibre Channel SAN vendors woo SMBs

By Dave Simpson

A number of research reports have indicated that the growth of storage area networks (SANs) in large enterprises is leveling off, while the small to medium-sized business (SMB) market represents a potentially huge, untapped market. Not surprisingly, virtually every storage vendor has refocused its efforts on the SMB space, including vendors of products for Fibre Channel SANs.

The trend is most evident in recent initiatives from the leaders in various SAN market segments, including Emulex and QLogic in host bus adapters (HBAs), Brocade in switches, and Hewlett-Packard in SANs and disk arrays. Each of those vendors recently launched initiatives that are expected to be good news for storage administrators in SMBs who need significantly lower acquisition and operating costs, as well as less complexity.

For example, Emulex is shipping to OEMs a Fibre Channel HBA for PCI-X servers--the LightPulse 101, or LP101--that is expected to be priced at less than $500. Shipments to end users are expected later in this quarter. The HBAs are compatible with Windows Server 2000/2003, Linux, and Netware.

In addition, Emulex added wizards to its software to simplify initial settings and configuration. For example, an AutoPilot-Installer tool walks users through installation in a step-by-step fashion, and an AutoPilot-Manager tool simplifies configuration and management.

Emulex archrival QLogic is bundling SAN starter kits for SMBs that have not implemented SANs. For example, QLogic's SAN Connectivity Kit 3000 is priced at $6,999 (MSRP) and includes the company's SANbox 5200 Fibre Channel switch with four ports enabled, four SANblade 2340 HBAs with optical interfaces, SANsurfer Management Suite software, four fiber-optic cables, and eight small-form-factor pluggable (SFP) connectors. Operating system support includes Windows NT/XP/2000/2003, Solaris, Linux and Netware. (For more information about the SANbox 5200 switch, see QLogic stacks SAN switches.)

Brocade, which has the lion's share of the fabric-switch market, last week added two low-end switches--the 8-port SilkWorm 3250 and 16-port SilkWorm 3850--as well as wizard tools to simplify SAN setup and configuration functions such as assigning IP addresses and setting default zoning. The 1U fabric switches operate at 1Gbps or 2Gbps and are fully non-blocking. Pricing is set by Brocade's OEMs.

Hewlett-Packard was the first of Brocade's OEMs to release versions of the SilkWorm 3250 and 3850. HP is selling the 8-port switch for $5,000 (22% less than its previous 8-port switch) and the 16-port version for $12,500 (15% less than its predecessor). (IBM, StorageTek, and Sun Microsystems have also announced plans to resell Brocade's low-end switches.)

HP released the low-cost switches as part of its Smart Office initiative for SMBs, which was launched last fall and covers a variety of HP's product lines. Also as part of the initiative, HP announced that it will support Serial ATA drives across its line of StorageWorks MSA disk arrays within the next two months.

This article was originally published on April 08, 2004