Kanwar J.S. Chadha, Entrada Networks

"The potential for massive growth in storage networking is impossible to ignore."

July 23, 2001

9 Min Read
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While interviews are normally conducted in person or over the phone, conflicting schedules often present problems for the traditional approach. In that vein, Byte and Switch recently exchanged emails with Kanwar J.S. ("Ken") Chadha, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Entrada Networks (Nasdaq: ESAN) regarding Entradas strategy within the storage networking industry. Although less spontaneous than a personal tête-à-tête in which the interviewee may say more than he means to (alors!), the following exchange still provides a look into the mind of the man behind Entrada, and how he sees the industry.

Dr. Chadha has served as the President and CEO of Entrada since April 2000. He had previously been employed by Bell Labs, starting in 1973. While there he was the principal software designer for the AMPS trial system and was responsible for the development of various software systems. As a department head from August 1980 to January 1987, Dr. Chadha managed the development of cellular technologies, including the Merlin phone system, applications processors, and the System 25 PBX.

Dr. Chadha is also a founding member of ERPL Inc., a firm that develops embedded software systems, enterprise and manufacturing resource planning software systems, and business-to-business e-marketplace systems solutions.

Dr. Chadha holds a BE (Hons) in Electrical Engineering from Thapar Institute of Technology, Punjab, India; a MASc in Control Systems from the University of Toronto; and a PhD in Systems Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland.

Click ahead to read his views on:Entrada's Niche

The State of the Market

His Management Team

Protocols and the Future

Byte and Switch: Entrada’s product strategy at this point appears to be aimed at enabling users of existing technology to reach out over greater distances, as opposed to enticing them to invest in replacement technology to achieve those goals. First, is that an accurate assessment of what Entrada is up to? If so, how do you see the market splitting between those two strategies?Kanwar Chadha: Yes, you could say that, although distance is only part of the equation. Issues such as low latency transport, total cost of ownership, and buffering are equally critical. In addition, although our products today address existing technologies such as Fibre Channel, Gigabit Ethernet, and Internet Protocol, our products tomorrow will likely incorporate iSCSI, Infiniband, 10-Gigabit Ethernet etc. All of this will depend on the market adoption rates for these emerging technologies.

Our products will likely always be complements to existing technologies such as Fibre Channel. We leave the fighting of technology wars to those with much bigger armies. It is not clear which technologies will emerge, but, because of the diversity of applications and end-user needs, most well-informed observers believe it will not be a winner-take-all market. The same holds true for the connection to the outside world, which is why our products are being designed to support T3, OC3/12/48, ATM, and POS [Packet over Sonet] all in the same box. We are fundamentally committed to a protocol-rich, multiservice access approach.

Byte and Switch: A great deal of effort and investment (including Entrada’s) is going into extending storage networking into the metro and wide-area space. How would you characterize the types of end-user companies that will be buying into this technology, and what sort of distances do they actually need to reach?

Chadha: Our solutions would typically be purchased by companies seeking to deploy remote disk mirroring, disaster recovery, backup, or data replication services to ensure 24x7 business continuance, and businesses that need to make vast data stores available to multiple, dispersed users in real time. We are seeing strong interest to trial our products from the financial, manufacturing, and entertainment verticals, in particular. As for distance, the initial interest will focus on metro solutions. But most of these companies have operations that span the globe, so these solutions must cross vast distances if we are to realize the true potential of SANs.

Byte and Switch: Has anyone published formal study results about the distance requirements that enterprises will be looking for?Chadha: We have not seen any. In fact, I believe most enterprises do not really know, as the majority of them are only now gaining an understanding of the advantages of storage networking over server-attached storage. Companies that have purchased Fibre Channel fabric switches have not done so for their transport capabilities.

Byte and Switch: How long have Entrada’s existing products been shipping, and how they are being received in the marketplace so far?

Chadha: Today we are in the test and beta trial phase and have signed evaluation agreements with many of the key players in storage, networking, systems integration, and others. Based on our current progress, we expect to have general availability by the end of the year on our Silverline™ 222 SAN-ove-IP switch and to be in beta trials at that time with our Silverline WDM optical storage extender.

Byte and Switch: How much has the general economic downturn affected Entrada’s efforts?

Chadha: Our SAN transport development efforts have not been hindered too much. We have seen an enthusiastic response from evaluation customers. Although we do have a mature adapter card business that has certainly been affected, our efforts have been focused on SAN transport, so the metrics for making that work are not affected much by our mature business. Our investment, hiring, and R&D have been directed toward developing SAN transport products for many months now, and we have restructured the organization quite substantially in the past year to fulfill this mission.Byte and Switch: When do you see the market regaining its previous momentum?

Chadha: I don’t know about the overall market, but I strongly believe that key sectors such as storage networking will regain momentum when investors better appreciate the long-term implications of the information explosion. The potential for massive growth in storage networking is impossible to ignore.

Byte and Switch: Do you feel that storage networking has been at least partially exempt from, or affected less by, the downturn than some other market segments?

Chadha: We still see a significant amount of funding from savvy investors being afforded to companies in this sector. In this ultra-tight, capital market these exceptions stand out noticeably. Again, the opportunity is so vast the financial community cannot afford to ignore it – even in the face of a very difficult investment climate.

Byte and Switch: To what would you attribute that effect?Chadha: I think many investors see a very positive upside for the fundamentals of the industry as a whole. Again, I would refer you to the potential for volume and revenue growth. Storage networking is an enabling technology that allows users to make much, much more of something they have today, and which is also growing phenomenally. And that is a fact. Email and Websites are not going away. ERP, CRM, all these great enterprise applications are not going away. The data deluge is just beginning. All this data needs to be stored – and made available anywhere, anytime. That creates huge opportunity for companies that have a vision and the ability to execute. I believe this growth potential is what has attracted the attention of Wall Street to this industry.

Byte and Switch: You’ve recently added a couple of new executives to your staff. Are you targeting new markets, or are you simply broadening your base of executive talent?

Chadha: We are broadening our base of executive talent. We have a wonderful team and had planned all along to staff these technology positions when we found the very best people. Entrada has a very team-oriented and fast-moving culture. Sometimes we search for a while to find the right people who can hit the ground running.

Byte and Switch: How will these new additions and the appointment of David Patterson as chief financial officer add to your capabilities?

Chadha: Our first product, the Silverline 222, represents a truly unique approach to IP-based SAN connectivity through its protocol-rich architecture. But even more exciting is what’s coming with optical data transport, what we call “SAN over light,” which is Entrada’s next big move.Sharam Hakimi, our new VP of hardware systems development, is working very closely with Nirmal Singh, our VP of software engineering, to design some quite innovative approaches to transporting SAN over light. Raj Ganti, our new VP of product management, is helping substantially with laying out the feature and performance expectations of this next-generation product line to ensure that we fulfill, better than anyone else, this existing, unmet business need.

David Patterson, our new CFO, will lead the continued capitalization efforts of the company, which, as you know, never end. I’ve been heavily involved in that myself, but I am first and foremost a technologist so I am delighted to have David on board.

Byte and Switch: What is your view on the looming protocol war between FC, iSCSI, Infiniband, and so forth? What role do you see the carriers and service providers playing in that battle?

Chadha: Is it really a looming war, or are the media and investment communities playing a large part in positioning it as a war? Each of these technologies has particular advantages in certain situations, depending on the application being deployed and the enterprise’s budget. This industry’s history, albeit relatively short, has shown a trend toward development and redevelopment, in terms of interconnects and architectures, and it is for this reason that we positioned ourselves to remain active, no matter where the market moves or which protocol wins out in the short term, because new technologies will always be right around the corner to shake things up.

The carriers find themselves in a very precarious position today due to prior capital expenditures coupled with quantum shifts in technology deployment. However, they are firmly entrenched virtually everywhere data exists, and if they can figure out how to mitigate their debts and jump efficiently into the services market they could be a significant factor in the market adoption rates of storage networking. That is precisely why we are seeing the advent of service providers, especially the SSPs, which will likely occupy a very rich market space in the not too distant future.— Ralph Barker, Consulting Editor, Byte and Switch http://www.byteandswitch.com

Movers and shakers from more than 100 companies – including Entrada Networks – will be speaking at StorageNet, Byte and Switch’s annual conference, being held in New York City, October 2-5, 2001. Check it out at StorageNet2001

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