Sanera Guns for Brocade

Stealthy startup seeks to carve out a chunk of the SAN switch market: It's got credentials, but no customers yet

June 21, 2001

2 Min Read
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Sanera Systems Inc., a startup in deep stealth mode, is pegging itself as the Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) of the SAN switch industry, as it prepares to do battle with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD).

Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., Sanera is building what it calls a very, very large, high port density, multiprotocol SAN switch, expected to ship in the first half of 2002.

It’s several orders of magnitude higher than anything commercially available in the SAN space today,” claims Alex Mendez, general partner at Storm Ventures, one of the company’s early investors.

Brocade's current Fibre Channel switch is expected to scale to 128 ports this year.

Inrange Technologies (Nasdaq:INRG) and McData Corp. also have products in that general range.

“That’s low end,” according to Mendez. “The Sanera box will be well over 500 ports.” A good target, but not an order of magnitude (10x) above the others, let alone several.And Sanera isn't as out there as it hopes. Many of the startups in our Top Ten PrivateStorage Networking Companies list are working on similar ideas. These include support for gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, iSCSI, InfiniBand, and anything else out there, as well as backwards compatibility with existing networks, Mendez says. Designed and integrated at the ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) level for redundancy and port failover capabilities, the switch is aimed at large data centers and IXCs (interexchange carriers).

“The switch will transparently failover at the port level so that the integrity of the data is maintained in a failover situation,” says Mendez. This is thought to be essential for storage switches built to backup mission critical company data. He believes the switch will also outdo today’s price/performance ratios by ten to twenty times.

As Juniper did to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Sanera is hoping to steal a considerable chunk of Brocade’s market share. It claims that with neither baggage nor decade-old code it will whip past Brocade with a high-end product designed for “scaleability and reliability.”

Keep in mind here that this sounds like what every startup says. And concomitant to having no baggage, of course, is having no customers.

Still, Sanera’s credentials give it a fighting chance.At the helm is CEO and founder Raj Cherabuddi, a former chief architect at Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), who brought around 30 percent to 40 percent of his staff with him from Sun. Cherabuddi and his followers were all UltraSPARC architects, Sun’s processor that has dominated the UNIX space. “The product they are building requires a high level of integration at the ASIC level -- so the experience they bring from Sun is essential,” says Mendez.

The quality of Sanera’s financial backing is pretty impressive, too. Legendary VC Wu-Fu Chen has dipped into his startup fund -- Acorn Campus -- to invest in the company, and so have Storm Ventures and ETrade

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