Techworld talked to Crosswalk CEO Jack McDonnell to find out more about the Crosswalk Storage Manager product and see how it compares to other products in the storage management area.

Techword: What is Crosswalk's ambition and how does it differ from those of previous SRM suppliers?
Jack McDonnell: Importantly, we are not trying to be JUST an SRM supplier; we are trying to solve a set of customer issues. With our first product, Crosswalk Storage Manager, there are three things to note about our approach:

1. Customers do not want point products. A single dashboard into their infrastructure, from the application to the physical storage layer, vs. stand alone product features is necessary to drive business value. This single view is what CSM currently provides.
2. Past suppliers have delivered a cost-prohibitive model that depended on customization and was only suited to high-end enterprises. Crosswalk is delivering a price point and ease of implementation that is better suited for a broader audience (easy to implement and use for SMB customers but can scale to the enterprise). Previous products were complex to install and needed a lot of customization to tune to customer needs.
3. Finally, we believe that storage, like the rest of IT, is becoming a service management issue. Because of this, we have developed the CSM suite to help the channel community become a better service provider and the IT end user to have a dialog across the organization. CSM is built with a knowledge base at its core. The knowledge base can be thought of like a database for the management information. Because of its database like structure the CSM suite can be used as an assessment tool to help customers see what resources they have, correlate the resources to performance, utilization and availability metrics and to analyze needs and strategically plan for growth. Within the customer environment, its not only making the administrators life easier, but opens a dialog between them and the application owner -- enabling the delivery of availability and performance needs. The on-going development of the CSM product is aimed at delivering that information across the business to facilitate technology and cross business dialog to plan and prioritize needs at a higher level.

Techworld: Why will Crosswalk succeed where previous SRM attempts, such as Softek's, faltered?
Jack McDonnell: Crosswalk's model is vastly different from previous attempts as we are really more about being customer-focused, not product-focused. We are responding to the customer needs in two ways:

1. We are doing more than traditional SRM. Customers want to see their whole storage environment, from the application to physical storage, and we are providing this view.
2. We are focused on specific customer pain points and are marketing around the "Got to Have" capabilities, for example NAS management and back-up management, while providing a product that can scale to provide a total view in a single dashboard. This focus differentiates us from the general providers with many customers who initially are looking to quickly and cost effectively fix one problem, but would like the ability to scale the management capabilities.

Techworld: How does Crosswalk's Backup Bundle differ from the Bocada DPM Product?
Jack McDonnell: The Crosswalk CSM Backup Bundle is a single capability of the product that can be a starting attribute of a larger management suite; it is not a point solution. Most agree that backup tools do a terrible job of reporting, and that's why companies like Bocada have been successful. Customers care about knowing what back-ups failed and succeeded, and having the ability to analyze why a failure occurred. In the category of back-up, our big differentiation points are:

1. We support six major back up environments, the most heterogeneous solution on the market. This is important as many customers currently have more than a single back-up package to manage.
2. More importantly though, the CSM Backup Bundle can easily expand with licenses to provide customers with the breadth of the entire suite - a single dashboard for management. Customers are increasingly moving away from the multiple point-product approach to management.

Techworld: How does Crosswalk Storage Manager differ from HP's Storage Essential's product?
Jack McDonnell: Crosswalk has built the CSM suite from the ground up to work as a single suite of management products. This approach differs greatly from the piece work that HP and other legacy providers are currently doing (its a benefit of being a start-up!). It is very difficult to correlate a stack of unrelated modules to work seamlessly as a management suite.

Additionally, the CSM suite is focused on the discovery and reporting of all assets that effect the data path. We are vendor agnostic and support for Solaris. The CSM suite can also see across direct attached storage, network-attached storage and storage area networks.

However, the most important Crosswalk differentiator is that the customer can start small and targeted (with the bundles) and then grow into the complete solution that they need - allowing them to access management capabilities affordably in a way that will scale with their needs.

Many of the traditional storage players have ambitions to provide this system-wide/vendor agnostic view, but they are in a situation where they need to leverage disparate products and piece them together - a difficult, expensive and time-consuming task. Also, we find that the competition is only targeting large enterprises, and their pricing reflects that. We are able to target the mid-market as well as scale to the enterprise.

Techworld: What does Crosswalk think of the Aperi group?
Jack McDonnell: Crosswalk is a big believer in standards. Our product is built on standards, but not dependant on them. We are active in the SNIA and the SMI-S group. Right now we feel its too early to know what Aperi's scope is. Our understanding is that they want to develop vendor cooperation to open source implementations of storage management applications. To date, SMI-S has allowed vendors to support devices, but at this point there are not a lot of applications that are supported (CSM is one of few). If Aperi drives more activity in the application space we are in favor of it, as it benefits customers and our own development.

Techworld: Does Crosswalk embrace WAFS (wide area file systems) products in its storage manager net?
Jack McDonnell: At this point there is no standard way to implement WAFS management. We can do a little in this area, but there is just not a single way to address the market. Currently, we have the ability to look at filesystems and to relate data from file servers to the host. We would definitely like to see the WAFS providers embrace standards for management interfaces.

Put Crosswalk's Storage Manager on your mark 2 SRM radar screen, along with HP's Storage Essentials, and see how it develops.