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When Panasonic, the main North American subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (NYSE: MC; Tokyo: 6752), picked McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) for its first SAN last year, the main impetus was to streamline the company's storage and make it more manageable.

Despite being a hub for application access from more than 100 North and South American company locations, Panasonic's Secaucus, N.J., production center, was using an old-fashioned Serial Systems Architecture (SSA) approach to storage networking from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM). Each IBM server had its own storage disks, and when something went wrong, each server in the network had to be checked. "We only used generic AIX management," says Craig O'Connor, Panasonic's systems program project leader.

SSA was IBM's early alternative to Fibre Channel, but by most accounts its day is done. "IBM is the only one who ever implemented SSA, and it's pass," says consultant Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group.

O'Connor says even IBM agreed that a SAN was the way to go. So two years ago, he and the Panasonic team chose switches from McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) to create a Fibre Channel fabric over an 18-month period.

O'Connor says his team's choice of FC directors was between McData and Inrange, now part of Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) (Nasdaq: CMNT). (See 2003 Top Ten: Mergers & Acquisitions.) McData won out, he says, because its SANavigator management software impressed the team more with its provisioning and monitoring features (see McData Helps Panasonic).

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