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David Scott, 3PAR CEO

Nobody can accuse 3PARdata Inc. of taking the easy path to SAN success.

No, 3PAR takes the bold approach of targeting enterprise SAN customers, which means it must convince them to pay $1 million or so to buy a startups product instead of turning to EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), or IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) to store their most important data. And 3PAR tries to beat the big boys by offering utility computing and virtualization – two technologies that have received a lot of attention without much actual implementation.

The jury is still out on how well this well funded ($153 million) startup is succeeding. In three years of shipping its InServ Storage Servers, 3PAR claims only 100 customers. “But they’re large customers,” 3PAR CEO David Scott says. “No mom-and-pop shops. We don’t target SMBs that are all the rage today. We go after the other end of the spectrum. A couple of our customers have 150 Tbytes of capacity.”

Among 3PAR's customers are a few online companies, such as eHarmony, Priceline.com, and FreshDirect (see Cogent Revenues Jump in Q2, 3PAR Books Priceline.com, and 3PAR in FreshDirect).

Scott says these kinds of companies embrace utility computing, which allows them to add and pay for storage as their needs grow. But he admits the concept of utility computing has also confused many potential customers, despite a lot of talk from major players such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW).

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