Vendors Debate SANs for SMBs

Management software remains the missing piece for the SMB market

April 8, 2004

2 Min Read
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PHOENIX -- The lack of good storage management software for SMBs turned into a major theme at a panel discussion at the Storage Networking World tradeshow here today.

Representatives from Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) (NYSE: CA), Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX), and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) faced the question of how storage vendors that tout the small-to-medium-sized business (SMB) market as the new sweet spot for SANs may be overlooking a big piece of the puzzle.

Smaller companies can often get low-end SANs up and running without much trouble, but they may flounder in keeping them going. Most software used on SANs is aimed solely at enterprises with technical expertise, and it needs to be reworked before it becomes useful for SMBs.

I talk to these [SMBs] guys a lot,” one consultant in the audience said. “They’re worried about it. [Integrators] will install their SANs, but they’re scared to death about managing them. These guys couldn’t spell LUN if you spotted them the L and the U.”

Software vendors are beginning to catch on. CA's VP of BrightStor product management, Anders Lofgren, says CA is in the process of simplifying its storage management software. “You can’t be giving SMBs 137 feature functions if they only need five,” Lofgren says. “Giving them 137 feature functionalities is a detriment.”But he acknowledges CA won’t have scaled down versions before fall. “We’re still in the process of defining what the feature functions are that they need."

Although he wasn't on the panel, McData's VP of software platforms, Jonathan Buckley, says the switch vendor is “de-featuring” its SANavigator software to make it easier for SMBs to install and manage its low-end switches.

Others don’t see the need to simplify SANs for SMBs. Emulex, for instance, won’t budge from its stance that SMBs will embrace Fibre Channel SANs. “I absolutely would advocate going to Fibre Channel today for small businesses,” Emulex marketing VP Mike Smith says. “Fibre Channel does not have to be expensive. Fibre Channel has been expensive because it’s been targeted to the data center.”

CA’s Lofgren disagrees. “Just because hardware is less expensive, doesn’t mean management is cheaper.”

At least vendors are becoming aware of the problem, but the wait for appropriate applications could hamper any meaningful wave of SAN implementation for SMBs. In the meantime, it looks as if the SMB market will stick with NAS and DAS -- and SAN vendors will be shut out of this coveted slice of the storage market.— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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