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Smart SAN Switches: Not This Year

NEW YORK -- A roundtable panel of executives from storage processor startups at the RBC Capital Markets conference here today agreed that intelligent SAN switches won't arrive in any significant way until next year at the earliest.

The panelists included representatives of Aarohi Inc., Aristos Logic, Astute Networks Inc., iVivity Inc., and Silverback Systems Inc. All of these startups are in various stages of developing silicon -- for either Fibre Channel, Ethernet, or both -- to speed up certain SAN operations.

Interest in intelligent SAN switches -- which are supposed to offer multiple high-level data management features in the network fabric -- heated up at the end of last year, as Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) announced it would buy Rhapsody Networks, and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) bought Pirus Networks.

Others developing such smart storage switches include Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Candera Inc. (formerly Confluence Networks), Maranti Networks, and MaXXan Systems Inc.

But while there will be some "token" deployments of these switches in the coming months, the category won't take off any sooner than 2004, say the storage processor startups, several of which are suppliers to those smart SAN switch developers. One of the stumbling blocks is that the new systems need to be able to integrate with the existing SAN infrastructures -- without causing any disruptions.

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