Emulex has joined the companies trying to crack the small SAN market - with help from IBM.
It has produced a new line of entry-level Fibre Channel SAN switches which, rather unusually, are specifically designed not to support SAN fabrics, along with a deal for IBM to sell a custom version of the switch.
The SAN Storage Switch 355 is a 12-port non-blocking 2Gbit Fibre Channel switch, while the 375 is a 20-port version that also has redundant fans and hot-swappable power supplies. Both models have an integrated management web server, plus a number of features intended to simplify installation and use, such as predefined switch configurations, one-step storage pool partitioning, and an intelligent change manager.
They are based on the InSpeed switch-on-a-chip technology that Emulex bought with Vixel. So far, this has only been used for embedded switches, mostly built into storage devices, but now it is going into a standalone device.
"It competes with the QLogic SANbox, it's very much for the low-end - eight to 12 servers, three or four storage devices, and around $200 per switch port" says Alan Wallman, VP of Emulex's European operations. "It could be connected to a fabric though, via a Brocade switch, say."
Not surprisingly, while it is happy to take on QLogic's entry-level SAN offerings, Emulex is very keen to avoid any conflict with partners such as Brocade, which targets a similar market with cut-down versions of its SilkWorm fabric switches, at $5,000 for eight 2Gbit ports. The Emulex switches are therefore OEM-only. Hence the IBM deal.
Stuart Bridger, CTO at SAN specialist Acal Storage Networking reckons that there is still a market for cheap Fibre Channel SANs, despite the challenge from IP storage. "iSCSI's not taken off, it's still too early," he said. "Fibre Channel is not difficult, it's just different - if you want difficult, storage over IP can be even harder, it can get very messy and you can get into some very high level IP stuff.
"The key for Emulex will be to have the right software. It has to be easy to use and easy to understand because at that level you're competing against NAS too."