McData founder and pals set up shop across town, in partnership with their alma mater

October 20, 2004

3 Min Read
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Storage software startup Crosswalk Inc. is finally emerging from stealth, though its founder is well known in SAN circles.

Jack McDonnell, the former founder and CEO of McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), is among three veterans of McData to start Crosswalk, and hes Crosswalk's primary investor. McDonnell founded McData in 1982 and served as CEO until 2002 (see Jack McDonnell, Chairman and CEO, McData, McData Appoints Kelley CEO, and McData Names Kelley as Chairman).

Two other former McData execs, Crosswalk VP of solutions Mark Stratton and CTO Rob Kelley, left the switchmaker to join McDonnell in starting his new company in February 2004.

Crosswalk, based in Westminster, Colorado, right down the road from McData’s Broomfield headquarters, aims to serve the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and SMB markets with storage management software, starting with the company's Crosswalk Storage Manager (see Crosswalk Launches SRM for SMBs).

The software is aimed at small and midtier customers with multivendor storage networks. Stratton says the idea is to give these companies a method of storage management they can understand more easily than the wares from big vendors or systems integrators (see Vendors Debate SANs for SMBs).“Our customer says, ‘Why do I even want to know zoning? Why do I even want to know LUN masking?’ ” Stratton says. “The customer shouldn’t have to go out and take a class on this."

Crosswalk got an assist from McData in getting product out the door in only seven months. The startup licenses McData’s SANavigator storage management software as well as Tek-Tools Inc. storage resource management software, and integrates them with its core product, using the common interface management (CIM) specification.

Crosswalk Storage Manager uses SANnavigator to discover and map storage networks and connected devices such as switches, HBAs, storage arrays, and tape devices from different vendors (see VP Details McData Software Makeover ). The Crosswalk resource manager, built on Tek-Tools Profiler Rx software, is used for monitoring, reporting, and capacity planning (see Tek-Tools Raises SRM Profile).

Analyst Randy Kerns of Evaluator Groupsays Crosswalk has targeted an underserved market, but needs to produce enough features at a low enough cost to reach that market. And it needs to set up an effective sales channel.

“The SMB has a more limited set of requirements, and typically doesn’t spend as much money,” Kerns says. “But the biggest issue is getting a distribution... set up."Pricing for Crosswalk Resource Manager begins at $5,000. Stratton says the company has a few resellers lined up, but won’t name them yet. Crosswalk’s target customer has from 100 to 1,000 people, and fewer than 200 application servers.

Keeping its focus on organizations that small will keep it from overlapping with customers of McData and Tek-Tools. After all, Crosswalk doesn’t want to cross its partners.

McData is doing more than striking a deal with its old boss. The agreement with Crosswalk fits into McData’s new strategy of pushing its software as a management tool for other vendors’ hardware as well as its own. Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) has also licensed SANavigator, and is expected to integrate it into its DataFabric Manager software by the end of the year (see NetApp Integrates McData). Other McData OEMs and resellers license SANavigator modules, and McData’s software revenue grew last quarter while its switch revenue decreased (see McData Stays Out of the Red).

Crosswalk is hoping its product release gives it enough early momentum to get more funding. The 45-person company so far has relied on McDonnell’s investment. Crosswalk is mum on how much McDonnell has put up, but SEC filings show he’s sold more than $6 million of McData stock since stepping down as McData chairman of the board at the end of January.

“At some point, we will go to the VC community,” Stratton says.In the meantime, Stratton says Crosswalk will be aggressive with product upgrades. He says another version with planning tools for server consolidation and data protection projects will ship in late November, followed by version 3.0 with provisioning next year.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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