3Com enters the Fibre Channel SAN market
By Dave Simpson
Networking giant 3Com last month jumped into the market for storage area networks (SANs) based on the Fibre Channel storage/network interface. It was the first instance of one of the leading network vendors (about $6 billion in annual revenues) entering the fledgling market.
3Com`s move, together with the anticipated entry of other network leaders such as cisco, is expected to boost adoption of Fibre Channel storage networks. "3Com`s entry helps to validate the whole SAN industry," says Anders Lofgren, an industry analyst at Giga Information Group, a consulting firm in Cambridge, MA. "They bring networking expertise, which the storage vendors don`t have and, long term, they can bring LAN/WAN/SAN integration, which is the big picture."
International Data Corp., a market research firm in Framingham, MA, estimates that by 2002, 37% of all external server storage sold will be into storage networks. That would translate into an $11.4 billion market.
3Com plans to roll out its SAN strategy in four phases over the next couple years. In the first phase, 3Com will concentrate on interoperability with its partners` SAN products. So far, the company has announced partnerships with four vendors: Clariion, Gadzoox Networks, Legato, and MTI Technology.
Under the umbrella term Storage Connect Programs, 3Com plans to offer a variety of services and products, including host bus adapters, hubs, switches, and network management software. This month, 3Com announced a PCI Fibre Channel adapter--due in the first quarter--for Solaris platforms, with versions for Windows NT, NetWare and other Unix implementations to follow.
In the second phase of its strategy, 3Com plans to roll out its Transcend network management tools for SANs, one of the key missing pieces for early adopters of storage networks. The third phase, due in 2000, will be the integration of LANs, WANs and SANs. Beyond that, the company will develop SAN services integrated with policy-based network management.
The non-exclusive partner agreements involve Clariion`s 5000 series Fibre Channel RAID arrays, ATF channel failover software and Navisphere storage management software; Gadzoox`s Fibre Channel hubs; MTI`s Infinity tape libraries and Gladiator RAID arrays; and Legato`s NetWorker and SmartMedia software. 3Com`s agreement with Gadzoox included an equity investment and a seat on Gadzoox`s board of directors.