Nimbus Nips Into iSCSI

Startup elbows its way into crowded low end UPDATED 6/1 2:00 PM

May 29, 2004

4 Min Read
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A San Francisco startup is off to the iSCSI wars. Nimbus Data Systems Inc. says it's shipping a small, inexpensive iSCSI array that starts at $5,000.

Nimbus, founded last summer, is shipping its Ethernet-compatible arrays to a handful of customers in the current darling of SAN segments -- the low end. And CEO and founder Thomas Z. Isakovich is sure enough of success that he's gunning for profitability at the end of this year.

Too cocky? Perhaps. But Isakovich insists the iSCSI market's hotter than an IHOP griddle. Players who aren't frying up sales don't get it, he insists. "My concern with other startups is that they don't offer the price points and ease of use to make their products attractive," he says.

Pricing is Nimbus's battle cry. It's currently offering two systems: a 500-Gbyte box for $5,000, and a 1-Terabyte one for $8,000. Software is bundled into each appliance, and customers pay extra to activate specific features.

Comparable products appear to cost more. A 1-Tbyte system from Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT) costs about $10,000, and a 1.2-Tbyte box from LeftHand Networks Inc. starts at $14,500.Nimbus claims extra value for its SAN lies with its software and management interface, which helps customers get the box up and running in 15 minutes, according to Isakovich. That's a boon for his target customer -- the small enterprise without Fibre Channel that's looking to consolidate storage for Windows and Linux apps, and do it without extra training.

Isakovich also claims Nimbus arrays are substantially faster than those of competitors: He says they've shown throughput of 119 Mbytes/second, compared with roughly half that for competitors.

Of course, none of this is verifiable without independent substantiation, and competitors like Adaptec and LeftHand aren't giving out any performance figures to validate a comparison. Until further input's available, Nimbus is an unknown vendor with unproven products.

The startup faces a legion of competition. Besides Adaptec and LeftHand, there are other new companies with demonstrable products and customers, including EqualLogic Inc. and Intransa Inc. (see ISCSI Shakin' Goin' On).

The iSCSI ante's also been upped by the entry of EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL) at the low end, which threatens the growing niche (see IP Crowd Sounds Off on EMC/Dell and EMC, Dell Get Small With SATA).Nimbus has come up with at least one novel idea -- listing the product on eBay. That's right, a SAN on eBay. Isakovich says that's more of a marketing tool than a sales tool. "We don't actually sell it on eBay," he says. "If somebody clicked 'Buy It Now' we'd contact them and tell them that's not a complete solution. You also need software. Then we'd give them a direct quote."

Isakovich defends his plan as econmically sound. He says he can list the product on eBay for $30 per month, compared to thousands a month to list it on Google AdWords. "Anyone types in 'iSCSI' on eBay, they see our product," he says. Isakovich says "about 10 percent to 15 percent our our total pipeline comes from people who see our product on eBay and call and say, 'Can you send me more information?' "

Besides accusations of cheesy marketing, Isakovich has a past to overcome as founder of one storage software startup, TrueSAN, that's now pushing up daisies despite its $30 million funding (see TrueSAN Officially Kicks Bucket). But he's confident he won't repeat the mistakes.

"There were two problems with TrueSAN -- money and the engineering team," he says. "We were over a year late on product delivery, and in the course of that, we ran out of money."

In developing Nimbus's product, Isakovich turned to contract developers (he won't say who they are or where they're located) and a Taiwanese OEM (also unnamed) for manufacturing. The company's also got angel funding for an undisclosed amount from a couple of investors, including Spring Creek Partners, a participant in TrueSAN's funding.Isakovich won't pursue the venture path further if he can help it. He'd like to grow Nimbus "organically," he says, and by keeping staff to under 15, hiring contractors, and partnering with selected VARs, he thinks the market will lift his boat along with others.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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