Incipient Sticks to Business

Vendor adds virtualization, multipathing; holds off on remote replication, support for Brocade

May 18, 2007

3 Min Read
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Incipient's latest software release has a lot of new features, but they may not be ones some customers expected. (See Incipient Releases Software Suite.)

First, what's new: The latest version of the company's iNSP block-based storage virtualization software features new scalability (four-module clusters are now offered); support for a range of host multipathing software, including EMC's PowerPath; support for Microsoft's Active Directory as well as Incipient's proprietary directory service; and the ability to upgrade software without stopping host I/O.

The upgrade is free to existing Incipient customers, who usually pay about $275,000 for a two-node configuration, including data migration and volume management.

Now, to what Incipient hasn't delivered: iNSP still lacks remote replication. And it still works only on Storage Services Modules (SSMs) for Cisco's MDS 9000 series switches -- even though Incipient talked of adding Brocade a few months back. (See Incipient and A Baby Step for Storage Virtualization.)

Incipient SVP marketing and alliances Robert Infantino is unrepentant. "We do have a roadmap for Brocade and McData," he says. "But we're customer driven, and most of our sites use Cisco." He says support beyond Cisco as well as remote replication could show up in a release by the end of 2007 or first quarter 2008.For now, it's clear Incipient is taking its cues from some specific financial services customers, mostly unnamed and unnumbered. Indeed, so far, Incipient's lifted the veil only on the City of Mesa, Ariz., and an anonymous hedge fund in Conn.

Incipient's also not making claims for fancy applications, even though the supplier says it can prove ROI on 1 Pbyte of storage in 11 months. Customers need help with one key task: migrating data from one vendor's storage arrays to another's. "Data migration is the pain point for storage virtualization," Infantino says. "New storage comes in, and the old storage is decommissioned. We solve the problem of how to migrate from older to newer arrays."

It appears to be a case of slow, targeted high-end sales, helped by reseller partnerships with IBM, LSI, 3PAR, HP, and Sun. (See Incipient Gets IBM Certification and Incipient Closes Record Q1.) 3PAR is particularly prominent in Incipient's PR, and Infantino says that's because some of the financial customers he deals with are migrating from big arrays like Symmetrix to ones with thin provisioning, like 3PAR.

Is that a stab at Incipient's chief competitor, EMC? Perhaps. Invista is also a moving target, with nary a customer on record.

But EMC is also unrepentant. "We still think the market for block storage virtualization is very green despite what some of our competitors are saying. And we feel we are going about this the right way -- getting it right with those enterprise customers that are looking into storage virtualization -- not re-purposing the technology for items we already facilitate," writes a spokesman in an email to Byte and Switch.He says that over 150 customers are using Invista -- but all of them are willing to serve only as customer-to-customer references, and none will talk to the press.

Incipient, which has raised over $80 million so far and has about 55 employees, appears content to wait out the growth of switch-based virtualization, which is also a focal point for Fujitsu and LSI. It will be interesting to see how and when the technology establishes itself against appliance- and host-based solutions from IBM, Falconstor, and others. Meantime, a set of financial companies appear to be leading the charge.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Incipient Inc.

  • LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • 3PAR Inc.

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