Maranti Makes It to Market

SAN switches with proprietary software could help startup find its niche, or lose big

December 9, 2003

3 Min Read
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Startup SAN switch maker Maranti Networks Inc. has unveiled its first product, and it seems to be gambling with big stakes.

Maranti's first offerings are 16- and 128-port SAN switches, combined with software that delivers storage services such as replication and mirroring, as well as management via a program called the Storian Manager. Maranti calls the products its CoreSTOR line. The platform works with Fibre Channel and iSCSI devices.

Despite arriving a year later than its original shipping date, Maranti seems to have its bases covered: QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC) and Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) have certified Marantis switches on their host bus adapters, and Maranti will sell its network storage services through Bell Microproducts (Nasdaq: BELM). QLogic and Emulex were among 17 partners Maranti announced in June. Harish Nayak, Maranti founder and marketing VP, also says Maranti has a paying customer, but he won't name the company.

Still, Maranti originally planned to ship its wares back in October 2002. What took so long?

There were a couple of holdups. Firstly, the San Jose, Calif. company was hit with consistent development delays over the past year, while the Fibre Channel SAN market went through a shakeup (see FC Market Gets Rattled).Meanwhile, questions about Maranti’s cash surfaced last September when the company laid off 15 employees, but Maranti's Nayak insisted at the time that the company would ship product before the end of the year (see Maranti Guillotines 15).

Most importantly, though, Maranti opted to create a complex product. Since it's trying to distinguish itself in a market dominated by Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), it must offer an integrated device that includes a hardware platform and software services.

"What Maranti is going through is a reflection of the real challenge of their industry," says analyst Rick Villars of IDC. "You have to have an integrated solution. You can't have just a software or just a hardware solution. Maranti decided to do it themselves."

Therein lies the gamble. On the plus side, developing its own software as well as hardware provides Maranti with a way to claim differentiating capabilities against the market leaders, which typically focus on hardware and enlist software vendors as partners.

On the downside, Maranti's biggest obstacle will be getting customers to bite on a solution that runs on proprietary software from a little-known vendor. In Heavy Reading's Fall 2003 Storage Networking Market Perception Study, only 4.8 percent of respondents reported knowing of Maranti. Even Maranti's rival startups MaXXan Systems Inc. and Sandial Systems Inc. had better name recognition.Much depends on whether customers opt for Maranti's do-all approach over its competitors' tack of enlisting software partners. "The challenge for [Maranti] is to get customers to buy their services for virtualization and data replication," Villars says. "If there’s a perception that this is a software market, they’re going to have a tough time."

Still, Nayak is confident his product will succeed because it provides storage processing at each port for low latency and high-speed performance. Maranti's software/hardware combination help the switch controllers recognize data types and prioritize traffic accordingly.

"In talking to end users, the one key message was: As you deliver this intelligence, if you slow me down or compromise the availability of my applications, I don’t want that intelligence," Nayak says.

Villars agrees Maranti can succeed if it delivers intelligence without delays. "There’s a limited base for additional players as the market sorts itself out," he says. "Customers don’t want delays, and if the right solution is out there, they’ll go with it."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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