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Startups Ready Big SAN Switches

Storage area networks (SANs) have become crucial to service providers who are seeking to manage huge amounts of content and hosted applications. But two startups say today's SAN products lack the capacity and performance carriers need. And they mean to make a killing delivering alternatives.

"This is a huge opportunity," says Thomas Z. Isakovich, founder and CEO of TrueSAN Networks Inc., one of these startups. The overall SAN market is forecast to reach $4.5 billion by 2003, he says, and "at least half" of that will go to carriers and other service providers buying SAN gear.

TrueSAN, which announced its first products in October, plans to finalize its second round of funding early in December. The round will add up to $25 million, Isakovich says, on top of an undisclosed amount already received. The company hopes for an IPO in 2001, he says. Backing is coming in equal portions from VCs, investment bankers, and unspecified "strategic partners."

Isakovich, a recent Stanford graduate, says TrueSAN's product, Paladin, is based on a SAN switch fabric built right into a server that supports distributed parallel processing. This approach, he claims, delivers an order of magnitude better capacity and performance than competing solutions from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP). It also allows TrueSAN to support network-attached storage as well as SANs. And it's scaleable: Customers pay for processors in add-on increments -- up to 128 can be supported in one platform.

TrueSAN's product features ATM (asynchronous transfer mode), gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and 16-channel WDM (wavelength-division multiplexing) connectivity -- the last via a module from Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR). Optical connectivity is a must for the carrier market, Isakovich contends. And while EMC has optical connectivity too, it can't claim to have combined it with distributed parallel processing, he says.

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