Storage Analysis Tools on Tap

Black-box products more vital as small companies try to gain market share.

Storage hardware analysis products will debut from most of the niches significant vendors this spring and summer, exploiting the precision needs of trends in high availability, vendor interoperability and scalability.

Black-box products from Finisar Systems, Ancot Corp. and I-Tech Corp. are used in developing, manufacturing and trouble-shooting Fibre Channel and SCSI storage hardware. Experts say theyll become increasingly vital as vendors such as EMC Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Hitachi Ltd., Network Appliance Inc., Veritas Software Corp. and scores of smaller companies engage in tense "co-opetition" deals to gain market share for management software.

Finisar Systems, a division of Finisar Corp., based in Sunnyvale, Calif., this month launched a product putting Fibre Channel, Ethernet and iSCSI into one device called the GTX 4.0. Pricing for GTX 4.0 ranges from about $30,000 for portable versions to $69,000 for a rack-mounted version.

"You can compare Fibre Channel going in one side and Ethernet going out the other," and that works in any combination of the three protocols, said Timothy Bean, vice president of engineering for Finisar.

Finisar is also readying an iSCSI product for release next month, as well as a 10GB version of the GTX later this year, Bean said. Looking out a year or two, Finisar wants to build a product to extend the length of captured datas meaningfulness and then stream that traffic to disk. Then users could analyze corrupted data in its actual context, instead of just in simulated contexts, he said.

Ancot has two new products due: a SCSI analyzer that records data at 320MB per second—which is twice as fast as the companys current product—will come this month. A Fibre Channel error injector, which will look for user-defined patterns of data passing by and replace them with specific test data, is due next month, said Peter Fletcher, senior vice president of the Menlo Park, Calif., company.

I-Tech, of Eden Prairie, Minn., also plans to release soon a major product built on its current Fibre Channel testing system, a spokesman said, declining to elaborate.

For Imation Storage Consulting, the professional services arm of disk and drive maker Imation Corp., based in Oakdale, Minn., the testing products are invaluable.

"Any lab wouldnt be worth its weight if we couldnt get down to the detail," said Bill Peldzus, the companys storage consulting manager. Imation uses all three companies testing products. "Each one of our engineers has a favorite based on what they like."

The function of getting system information is useless without a good user interface, and that also is a personal preference, Peldzus said. But the I-Tech product stands out for its scale and its ability to multitask, he said.