SAN innovation coming from smaller vendors

Large server suppliers, including Sun Microsystems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp.

Large server suppliers, including Sun Microsystems Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, may be the big names among SAN vendors, but it's small companies that are beginning to de liver some of the most innovative new storage area network technologies.

Already, smaller startup SAN developers, such as Ancor Communications Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Vixel Corp., supply large server vendors with much of their SAN hardware, including storage servers, fiber hubs and switches. And a new crop of novel products from these and other developers indicates that their leadership will continue.

For example, 18-month-old Converge Net Technologies Inc., of San Jose, Calif., next week is expected to unveil its Storage Domain Management line of SAN hardware and software designed to provide a central point of management for SANs across an enterprise. Dell Com puter Corp. is betting on this new technology. The Round Rock, Texas, PC giant has announced plans to acquire ConvergeNet by early next month.

Market leaders, including Ancor, continue to up the ante in the SAN market. In the coming weeks, Ancor will roll out a Fibre Channel switch line with a focus on SAN scalability to help make large networks with thousands of ports possible.

"Smaller companies have taken a leadership role in the SAN market," said Carla Kennedy, vice president of marketing for Ancor, in Minneapolis.

For SAN management, Gadzoox Networks Inc., of San Jose, is partnering with Tivoli Systems Inc. and Computer Associates International Inc. to integrate its SAN management technology into Tivoli's and CA's respective enterprise management programs.

Other small companies are also preparing new products for the SAN market. San Jose startup SanCastle Technologies Inc. is readying an enterprise-level Fibre Channel switch; American Megatrends Inc., of Norcross, Ga., will ship its PCI-RAID controller MegaRAID Enterprise 3000 with two Fibre Channel ports by December; and Ultera Systems Inc., of Laguna Hills, Calif., will release an integrated Fibre Channel version of its LibraryMaster tape array by year's end.