By Dave Simpson
Start-up Crosswalk Inc. is targeting the "M" part of the SMB (small to medium-sized business) market with storage management software that is based on a unique (at least in the midrange market, according to analysts) knowledge base engine.
The company defines the mid-market as any company with 100 to 1,000 employees, an IT budget between $3 million and $20 million, or 5 to 200 servers.
On the surface, Crosswalk resells software from other vendors, including Tek-Tools' Profiler Rx storage resource management (SRM) software and McData's SANavigator SAN management software. (Crosswalk founder, chairman, chief executive officer, and primary investor Jack McDonnell was the founder and former CEO of McData.) Crosswalk re-brands SANavigator as Crosswalk SAN Manager and Profiler Rx as Crosswalk Resource Manager, which are optional components in the overall Crosswalk Storage Manager (CSM) suite.
But it's the company's Knowledge Server knowledge base that, from a technology standpoint, may differentiate Crosswalk Storage Manager from the dozens of other storage management software suites. Knowledge Server is designed to simplify storage management by aggregating both physical and logical resource data into a single knowledge base, which is built on the Common Information Model (CIM) standard.
"We use the schema in the CIM model as a central repository where we keep all the real-time and historical information, including infrastructure information and logical information about the file systems, for example," explains Mark Stratton, vice president of solutions and co-founder of Crosswalk. "The architecture makes it easy to integrate other products [into Storage Manager] and to share information with third-party products." The software is also SMI-S-compliant.
CSM is designed as an alternative to manual methods of managing storage environments and/or dealing with the complexity and cost of software that is tailored to higher-end enterprise environments. Crosswalk hopes to differentiate its software by offering a fully integrated suite, as well as on cost (CSM is priced from $5,000).
According to analysts, Crosswalk's primary advantage may be its focus on the mid-market.
"Crosswalk's big differentiator is in targeting mid-sized business with an integrated solution that includes SRM and SNM [storage network management] with the goal of making it much simpler to manage storage networks," says Randy Kerns, an analyst with the Evaluator Group research and consulting firm. "This market is very price-sensitive and requires products that have a starting point at around $5,000."
Kerns adds that, although many storage hardware vendors are focusing on the SMB market, most storage software vendors remain focused on higher-end enterprise market segments with relatively high-cost products that often are not integrated and/or easy to use.
"Most storage management products are discrete tools," says Stratton. "We're creating a fully integrated suite to eliminate a number of point products that companies typically use for storage and application monitoring tasks, and we'll be less expensive than the enterprise-level products."
Crosswalk launched CSM 1.0 in September and plans to ship the 2.0 version later this month. The newer version will include planning services (in addition to analysis and assessment services), enhanced reporting and exporting, and an Asset Management Reporter tool.
Crosswalk plans to sell exclusively through the channel (VARs and systems integrators). The company has signed eight resellers: Evolving Solutions, Infosystems, Lewan, MSI, Navigate Storage, RedBridge, Systems Technology Associates, and Total Tec.
Analysts note that Crosswalk's reselling arrangement with McData plays into McData's strategy of moving SANavigator into non-McData environments and into the mid-market space.
CSM at a glance:
Crosswalk Storage Manager includes a Knowledge Server and two optional packages:
Knowledge Server: A knowledge base based on CIM that aggregates physical and logical resource data. Allows administrators to gather, visualize, and store information that can then be used for assessing, planning, architecting, procuring, and managing heterogeneous storage infrastructures.
Crosswalk Storage Manager: Based on Tek-Tools' Profiler Rx storage resource management (SRM) software, this optional suite provides administrators with real-time information for capacity planning and event management across SAN, NAS, and DAS environments. Features include views of asset utilization, backup success, trending and forecasting for capacity planning, and event monitoring. Supports Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle databases, as well as backup software from vendors such as Computer Associates, IBM/Tivoli, Legato/EMC, SyncSort, and Veritas.
Crosswalk SAN Manager: Based on McData's SANavigator, this optional software automatically discovers and maps storage networks and gives administrators the ability to monitor and visualize SAN-connected components (e.g., switches, disk arrays, tape devices, HBAs, etc.). Other features include topology mapping, event logging, and SAN performance analysis.