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Agilent Stands Firm on Fibre Channel

But could it miss the boat on iSCSI?

Agilent Technologies Inc.s (NYSE: A) storage networking division has taken the wraps off its 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel chip, reinforcing its commitment to this market and this technology. In fact, the company tells Byte and Switch it has no plans just yet for the up-and-coming iSCSI (SCSI over IP) market, a technology that some believe will one day usurp the Fibre Channel kingdom.

“iSCSI’s at least 12 to 18 months off,” says Julian Elliott, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s storage networking unit. “We currently have no plans for a chip to address this sector… most of our customers want Fibre Channel."

That doctrine is at sixes and sevens to the strategy being posited by startups like Trebia Networks Inc. -- which just won $40 million in funding to build network processors designed specifically for operation in the kit installed in IP SANs (see Trebia's $40M Secret).

It’s also distinct from the policy of Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT), a components firm that recently acquired Platis, specifically for its iSCSI chipset; and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), which has announced its intention to leap into this market with both broad feet.

“Agilent is caught in the big company mindset. It's just thinking about what it needs in the pipeline right now in order to meet its earnings numbers,” says Sunil Dhaliwal, a storage investor at Battery Ventures. “Fibre Channel is where the money is right now, but hanging onto incumbent technologies and customers for too long puts it at risk of missing the boat on new opportunities coming along."

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