MaXXan Switches to Encryption

Uses device built for intelligent switching to become latest encryption player

April 14, 2006

3 Min Read
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MaXXan is switching gears again, heading for what execs hope is the right market for its big hardware box.

Originally conceived as an intelligent switch startup, MaXXan is getting ready to jump into the encryption fray by plugging an encryption line card into its MXV platform and running the box as a controller instead of a switch. (See MaXXan Seeks CEO and Sales.) MaXXan marketing VP Jeff Whitney says the startup has beta customers and hopes to have paying ones by the end of May.

Instead of an intelligent switch, MaXXan now calls the MXV a Secure Storage Application Platform (SSAP). It will eventually include virtualization, CDP, and other applications, Whitney says. Encryption is first up. (See MaXXan Adds Encryption.)

"We're not recasting ourselves as a security company. Encryption is our first application. It's our silver bullet app," Whitney notes.

MaXXan first revealed its encryption plans last fall, expecting to ship by the end of March. That could cost them. While the company was too early by coming out with an intelligent switch before that market developed, it now must convince customers it's not too late with encryption. As the latest Byte and Switch Insider points out, there are already close to 20 vendors in the space. (See Insider: Encryption Means Planning.)Decru -- a division of Network Appliance -- and NeoScale have gained most of the mindshare when it comes to devices that encrypt data backed up to tape and virtual tape libraries (VTLs). Kasten Chase and Vormetric have similar products. Sun Microsystems and Spectra Logic have tape devices with built-in encryption, and Nexsan encrypts data for archiving on its storage systems. Vendors of backup and other software applications have encryption built into their products.

MaXXan claims its approach is a different enough to distinguish it. Instead of focusing on VTL, MaXXan is concentrating on disk encryption in larger enterprises. (MaXXan also has a VTL product, but doesn't support encryption on that yet.)

MaXXan's also going considerably larger than its competitors. While Decru and NeoScale have disk encryption devices, they don't scale nearly as high as MaXXan's. For instance, Decru's biggest device holds 10 Fibre Channel ports and NeoScale maxes out at four, while MaXXan's encryption cards come in 16-, 64-, and 256-port configurations.

Nonetheless, the highend could prove a windswept tundra for MaXXan. Rob Stevenson, managing director of market research firm TheInfoPro (TIP), says recent interviews with storage administrators at 150 companies show tape encryption is still far more popular than disk encryption. More than 60 percent of the firms TIP interviewed say they are implementing tape encryption or plan to by the end of the year -- compared to about 40 percent for disk encryption.

According to Stevenson, by staying away from file and tape encryption in favor of block encryption MaXXan is fighting the current of user demand. Still, he's a fan of MaXXan's architecture and was a customer of its VTL in his previous position as technology strategist of Neilson Media Research. And while he couldn't justify buying the product as a big switch, he found he could use it alongside his existing Brocade gear. "All I had to do was plug it into the switch," he says.Apparently, MaXXan has heard many similar tales and taken them to heart. "Most people aren't looking for a new switch," Whitney says. "They say, 'We already have Brocade, Cisco, or McData.' Most customers run our product in controller mode."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

Companies mentioned in this report include:

  • Decru Inc.

  • EMC Legato

  • Kasten Chase Applied Research Ltd.

  • MaXXan Systems Inc.

  • Nielsen/NetRatings

  • NeoScale Systems Inc.

  • Nexsan Technologies Inc.

  • TheInfoPro Inc. (TIP)

  • Spectra Logic Corp.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Vormetric Inc.

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