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Can JNI Bust HBA 'Duopoly'?

JNI Corp. (Nasdaq: JNIC) says it wants to break up the "duopoly" in the Fibre Channel host bus adapter market with the release of a new HBA for Windows priced up to 30 percent lower than products from the two vendors that currently dominate the market, Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) and QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC).

JNI's 2-Gbit/s ZStar series of HBAs, aimed at small and medium-size enterprises, provides a wizard-like installation and management tool. The ZStar Series includes two HBA models: the Z210, a single-port PCI-X HBA; and the dual-port PCI-X Z220. More important, perhaps, is the fact that JNI expects the street pricing for the ZStar adapters to be under $800 per port -- well below the $1,000-plus that HBAs from Emulex and QLogic typically cost.

"There is obviously a huge market through the OEMs [original equipment manufacturers]," says Phil Brotherton, VP of marketing at JNI. "Everybody knows pricing is critical to opening up the SAN market, and everybody knows the complexity is killing the uptake... We've built an HBA truly focused on the midmarket's needs."

But as of yet, JNI hasn't landed any OEMs for the ZStar (or, at least none that it's able to announce publicly). And the company will face a lot of work in order to displace the incumbents, Emulex and QLogic, which have both enjoyed fairly steady growth and comparatively high margins in the last few years (see Is Emulex Slowing Down? and QLogic Keeps on Truckin').

JNI has lagged as a distant No. 3 behind them, concentrating on the high-end Solaris market. Now the company believes it has the right product mix to mount a serious challenge to the Big Two. "We've spent a lot of time trying to crack the duopoly," says Brotherton.

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