CentrePath Widens SAN Path

Remote management service now covers FC and Ficon as well as DWDM and Sonet

April 6, 2005

3 Min Read
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Data center service provider CentrePath Network Inc. says customers are paying to add SAN switches and channel extenders to the roster of equipment CentrePath already manages for them.

From the top: CentrePath offers services for data center networks. One of its main offerings is a remote network monitoring and management service that covers telecom gear from ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT). Now, it also includes Fibre Channel directors and switches from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco, and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), as well as channel extenders from Computer Network Technology Corp. (CNT) (Nasdaq: CMNT).

The news is yet another demonstration of the blending of SANs and WANs, particularly optical networks. It also shows the role that services are playing in managing data centers.

CentrePath's own story mirrors these trends. It began life in 2000 as GiantLoop Network Inc., a provider of services based on leased optical fiber. By 2002, it had tried on hats as a metro-area network specialist, storage service provider, and integrator. Its use of proprietary management software, developed in house, also gave the company a sub-identity as software supplier.

But a slew of GiantLoop execs, including cofounder Jim Sullivan, now CEO of CentrePath, hailed from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), and by 2004, it ditched its fiber and re-emerged as a hybrid, selling its own Magellan management system for optical networks while providing data center network design and management services.CentrePath's metamorphosis is perfectly logical to president Mark Smith. "We were formed to help clients build and manage data center-to-data center networks," he says. Over 100 customers, he claims, have asked CentrePath to extend its Magellan monitoring capabilities deeper into the data center. "We focus on the data path... If you look at data as it moves from storage spindle to Brocade switch, over DWDM, to another Brocade switch, and onto another spindle -- that's all part of the data path."

The Magellan system, which the company is trying to patent, includes discovery, topology mapping, fault management, and collation of performance data for DWDM, Sonet, Fibre Channel, and Ficon connections. Smith says its major differentiator from other WAN managers is the ability to identify root causes of multi-alarm problems in short order. Magellan costs in the "hundred-thousand-dollar range," Smith says, depending on the number of devices and platforms managed. It runs under Solaris but will also shortly support Linux.

CentrePath sells Magellan as a distinct product and offers training for its use. CentrePath also offers remote monitoring and management service based on Magellan hosted in the company's Marlborough, Mass., network operations center. The CentrePath service, according to Smith, forestalls trouble by monitoring degraded performance, quickly parses the alarm storms that can occur in data center networks, and bypasses vendor finger-pointing sessions to solve problems quickly.

CentrePath, which has 55 employees, faces a range of competitors. There are integrators, consulting firms, data center service providers, and even telecom firms galore that are increasing their data center focus. Another long-standing player, ManagedStorage International Inc. (MSI), also offers remote monitoring of storage networks, though that firm doesn't focus on optical networking gear along with storage.

In the end, it may be CentrePath's odd blend of optical and storage switching that help make or break it. Its pitch depends on how much value IT managers see in common management of Sonet and storage traffic. Also important is how many ITers will see the value of turning to an outside provider for this common management.CentrePath offers an example of a potential customer. Community Health Systems of Indianapolis, Ind., will reportedly be on hand at next week's SNW to discuss the use of CentrePath services in creating and managing a private optical network for a "paperless hospital environment." While not among the users now deploying the new SAN-enabled monitoring service, the healthcare company is reportedly considering it, and ready to talk about why. Stay tuned.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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