InterSAN Attracts Major InterEST

Startup's management software catches the eye of EMC, HDS, LSI Logic, and others

July 27, 2001

4 Min Read
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When a whole bunch of heavyweights in the storage networking industry beat a path to the door of a single startup, thats a pretty good indication that the company in question has got something special.

That’s what’s happening right now to InterSAN, a startup based in Scotts Valley, Calif. In the next week or so, Hitachi Data Systems, EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), and LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI) are expected to announce support for InterSAN’s storage network management software. And in each case, that’s going to be followed by joint marketing and sales initiatives.

Word has it that another big gun, IBM Global Services, is also still in the queue to reach a similar deal with InterSAN -- all of which is pretty amazing, considering that the startup’s only been in business for a year.

So, what’s so special about InterSAN?

Well, it’s got some clever marketing folk on board. They’ve done the usual trick of defining their own market for “applications-based Storage Area Management (SAM) software” so they can claim to lead it.And they’ve also given the technology underpinning InterSAN’s software an important sounding name -- VPD, for Virtual Private Datapath -- which they’re busy getting patented. Nice.

They’re also lining up customers. The first one will be a storage service provider (SSP), to be announced in August.

All the same, there’s clearly some meat to InterSAN’s claims that it’s “raising the bar in network storage management software,” as Karen Dutch, InterSAN’s director of product marketing puts it.

In simple terms, VPD establishes and manages the communication between applications on the server and the storage they require. It runs a continual health check on the configuration and discovery of all the devices between the two ends and the topology of these in the network to keep the system running smoothly.

Sounds like most storage management software, which it is, except that InterSAN has gone the next step. VPD is also able to automate storage provisioning, lowering the typical human costs involved in managing storage by $250,000 a year, the company claims. In automatically assigning certain storage to certain applications, it saves 30 to 50 steps that would usually have to be manually configured.The figure of $250,000 is based on an average enterprise setting up 4,000 “LUNs” (logical unit numbers) a year, linking applications with storage devices. On average, an administrator earning $70 an hour takes 54 minutes to set up a LUN, according to InterSAN, which claims its software cuts this to a single minute.

The first iteration of InterSAN’s product, expected at the end of the year, will also provide basic service-level management, offering such things as uptime performance statistics for details on what paths went down and when. And the second version, due in early 2002, will go even further, providing response times for specific applications.

Right now the competitive landscape looks good for InterSAN, which might make it a tasty acquisition target. Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) and IBM’s Tivoli division both offer device-centric management that provides discovery and topology rendering, but neither offers automated storage management or the ability to see which applications are using which parts of the infrastructure. Prisa Networks Inc.

and SANavigator Inc., two other startups in this space, are also only offering device discovery products.

If InterSAN doesn’t get snapped up first, it will need to get the switch vendors and HBA vendors to support its software, but judging by the support it’s garnered so far, this shouldn’t be a problem. It’s also missing security and access control features, which are an essential part of any storage management solution.

Still, it’s done enough to secure $7.8 million in a first round of funding in April, led by Wit Soundview Ventures. Others in the round included Capital Alliance Ventures, Morgan Keegan & Company Inc., and storage luminaries such as Kumar Malavalli, co-founder and VP of technology at Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD). InterSAN hopes to win a second round in the first quarter of 2002.— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Movers and shakers from more than 100 companies -- including Brocade, EMC, and others mentioned in this article -- will be speaking at StorageNet, Byte and Switch'sannual conference, being held in New York City, October 2-5, 2001. Checkit out at StorageNet

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