DataCore has introduced a cut-down version of its SANmelody iSCSI server software, priced at just $199 - $1,000 less than the full version. The Lite release supports up to four disk drives but only on single-processor PCs.

Calvin Hsu, the company's product marketing director, says that the aim is for SANmelodyLite to reach smaller businesses and departments who would not otherwise take a SAN route.

"It opens up more places for us to sell and gives more people a taste of managing storage," he says, adding that it also gives VARs and system integrators "a very flexible solution that they can take and package". The company says that SANmelody Lite can deliver many of the benefits of storage consolidation, such as better disk use and shared network storage, while needing little extra hardware.

Early users seem to agree: "All you really need is an existing PC, even an older machine, an existing network, a few high capacity disks and SANmelody Lite to build a real working SAN," said one IT director, Morris Campbell.

Hsu says that DataCore wants to make money by selling the software in volume, plus it is something of a loss leader. "I anticipate offering enticing deals for customers to move up to the full version," he says.

It is worth noting that several open source projects are underway to create iSCSI targets (servers), but these can be a challenge to get working whereas SANmelody is designed to easy to set up and use. There is also an alternative commercial product, in FalconStor's iSCSI Storage Server. However, Danielle Gauthier, FalconStor's European marketing VP, claims the market opportunity is so big that she rarely sees competition.

"We sell more as a volume thing, to hardware companies that work as Microsoft OEMs," she says, noting a recent deal with Acer which will use the software to build midrange storage servers.

According to Gauthier, an iSCSI price war is unlikely just yet - FalconStor's software is around $2,000, and she says it is fuller featured than SANmelody. "We've been in IP storage since we opened, first with iSCSI for Linux and now seeing good potential for it under Windows," she adds.