Intransa CEO Plots Course

Pins hopes on making nice with Redmond and riding Ethernet's next speed boost

January 19, 2006

3 Min Read
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Five months into his job as CEO of Intransa, Tom Alexander says he has the keys to success: Cozy up to Microsoft, become better known in the U.S., and take advantage of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet when it hits the right price for IP SANs.

Intransa is playing catchup in the first two areas. Its iSCSI rivals EqualLogic and LeftHand already have the Simple SAN qualification that Microsoft gives for products deemed compatible with Windows Server 2003 storage features. (See Microsoft Sets Sights on SANs.) EqualLogic and LeftHand also started out emphasizing U.S. sales, while Intransa put much of its early focus on Asia. (See Nexsan Uses Hitachi Drives, Intransa Goes to India With SES, Intransa Expands Overseas, and Intransa Expands in China.)

Intransa needs to catch up, Alexander acknowledges. When he took over, he realized we needed to get more in bed with Microsoft.” There's a need for SMBs to run Exchange and other Windows applications on low-cost SANs.

“We are getting the support of Microsoft and working closely with them to get the necessary certification to focus on Microsoft applications,” Alexander says. “That is the key to establishing a presence in the U.S. I also see 10-gig on the horizon, and that should drive more demand. That brings us more into high midrange applications.”

Alexander thinks the price for 10-Gbit/s IP SANs will be right later this year -- when he expects Intransa to ship the 10-Gbit/s system it demonstrated at the Storage Networking World trade show last October. (See 10-GigE SANs to Make SNW Debut.) IP SANs currently chug along at 1-Gbit/s Ethernet, while Fibre Channel SANs are already at 2-Gbit/s and moving up to 4-Gbit/s. (See 4-Gig Fans Fawn and High-Speed Drivers.)The launch of 10-Gbit/s IP SANs will be decisive in converting new users. “The moment we have 10-gig connectivity, performance-wise we are ahead of the Fibre Channel guys,” Alexander says.

Still, Alexander concedes the entrenchment of Fibre Channel. Getting folks to accept a different technology will call for lots of marketing -- and the willingness to start as a secondary storage player for SATA disk if need be.

“The enterprise is held strongly by Fibre Channel players, and to go in there takes a tremendous amount of IP SAN evangelism,” Alexander says. “If I try to grab primary storage, established players are entrenched so strongly they won’t let me come in. You hear the usual scare stories about iSCSI. But for secondary storage, we can come in.”

A key challenge for Intrnasa in its fight for iSCSI mindshare among startups and established players such as Network Appliance and EMC will be management stability. Last year was rocky for Intransa on that front, with changes in CEO, chairman, CTO, and VPs of marketing and global operations.

Alexander maintains that the exodus stopped shortly after he took over in July. (See Intransa's in Transition and Ex-Intransa Trio Aids Startups.) And he says things have evened out.“Granted, there were changes in the organization in previous quarters,” he says. “Most of you guys notice that and point it out again and again. I did not change any of the team, and we are marching ahead.”

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • EqualLogic Inc.

  • Intransa Inc.

  • LeftHand Networks Inc.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Network Appliance Inc.

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