3Com Kick Starts SAN Market

One of the networking giants has made the jump into storage area networks (SANs). This hot but vaguely defined market category primarily was staked out by storage vendors. 3Com Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif., <A HREF="www.3com.com">www.3com.com</A>) this month unveiled its strategy to develop the market: a line of products and a set of alliances and compatibility programs.

One of the networking giants has made the jump into storage area networks (SANs). This hot but vaguely defined market category primarily was staked out by storage vendors. 3Com Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif., www.3com.com) this month unveiled its strategy to develop the market: a line of products and a set of alliances and compatibility programs.

"The SAN market has been waiting for one of the three networking biggies to jump in, and 3Com is the first to do it," says Tom Lahive, senior analyst, server storage and RAID program, Dataquest Inc. (Lowell, Mass.). "This little market is going to grow from zero to $1 billion in three years."

Since 3Com is a networking giant and a well-known name, the company’s presence legitimizes the SAN Market. "3Com validates the market because it’s an outside company saying ‘Hey, we want to get into this market,’" says Anders Lofgren, analyst, Giga Information Group (Cambridge, Mass.) "And 3Com brings networking technologies and aspects necessary to the SAN environment that storage vendors don’t have. That is important for the development of the market."

As part of its entrance into the market, 3Com introduced the StorageConnect Fibre Channel line of SAN products, created alliances with storage equipment and application vendors and launched hardware and software compatibility programs.

"We see a trend emerging in the way people buy storage," says Robin Purohit, senior product manager, 3Com. "Today, end users buy storage from their server company, but the trend is toward buying best-of-class storage and then getting the server. The problem today is that NT and Unix don’t treat storage as a network piece, they both think they own all the data on a drive."

As the first step in delivering operating system and hardware interoperability, 3Com penned integration pacts with The Clariion Advanced Storage Division of Data General (Southboro, Mass., www.clariion.com), Legato Systems Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif., www.legato.com) and MTI Technology Corp. (Anaheim, Calif., www.mti.com).

The agreement with Clariion calls for joint development of an interoperable, High Availability SAN. Clariion offers its FC5000 Series of Fibre Channel arrays, Navisphere storage management software and Application Transparent Failover high-availability software. This RAID solution also includes a combination of high availability software and management tools.

3Com will be working with Legato and MTI on technology for backing up mission-critical data without affecting network traffic. Collaboration with MTI will result in an interoperable Data Consolidation SAN solution that includes MTI’s StorageWare JBOD and Gladiator RAID. The Data Consolidation SAN will be a modular solution that allows storage capacity for multiple open-system servers.

Legato will deliver its NetWorker and SmartMedia data protection applications, MTI will offer RAID arrays and tape libraries, and 3Com will bring its new StorageConnect Fibre Channel adapters, hubs and network management tools.

To support its StorageConnect Fibre Channel product line, expected in the first quarter of 1999, 3Com is also forming the StorageConnect Compatibility Program and the StorageConnect Solutions Program.

The StorageConnect Compatibility Program, as the name implies, is designed to create hardware interoperability between 3Com StorageConnect products and a partner’s storage products.

The Solutions Program addresses the needs for the integration of SAN topologies with SAN-enabling storage management software. Under the program, 3Com will work with ISVs to integrate and test solutions. "We formed the initial basis for our programs with MTI, Clariion and Legato, but we are opening it up to other top-tier storage vendors such a Veritas, Seagate, Cheyenne and Oracle," Purohit says.

While 3Com is the only networking vendor thus far to offer a SAN solution, the company is not officially pushing toward making its solution into a standard. "This is an increasingly heterogeneous world with NT, NetWare and Unix all going to be there, especially in the SAN market," Purohit explains.

Whether 3Com’s competition in the SAN market comes from its networking archrivals, Bay Networks Inc. (Santa Clara, Calif., www.baynetworks.com) and Cisco Systems Inc., or from storage vendors, analysts agree that other players will enter the SAN market. "Just like every other marketplace, one, two or three companies will own 80 percent of the market and pretty much control the de facto standards. Everyone else is going to have to make sure that their products conform," Dataquest’s Lahive says.