Makers of cables, hard drives, and switches are scrambling for ways to elevate their wares' value to the boardroom. Many are left to latch on to partners who meet business-technology executives head-on. But some are trying to inject unseen intelligence into components that could kick-start outright business improvements.
Startup Sandial Systems on Tuesday began shipping the Shadow 14000 Fibre Channel switch, which provisions storage area network resources on a per-connection basis thanks to intelligent software inside called ConnectIQ.
"Combined with product lifecycle management, the new switch is improving our time to market and our ability to reuse business processes," says Pierre Baudet, business systems manager at footwear maker and distributor New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. "The Sandial switch lets us stay online and maintain performance during backups and tests, letting us stay up all the time for workers around the world."
While other switches let storage administrators dole out job priorities, they lock out all but the most important traffic. With Shadow, those same administrators could allow certain percentages of multiple jobs to make it though the pipe. Armed with this intelligent switch, the administrators could maintain control while consolidating storage, align app resources with business priorities, and allocate bandwidth to guarantee app service levels.
Eric Blonda, director of product marketing at Sandial, says the switch should let administrators ensure levels of performance to users accustomed to regular performance degradation because of jobs like E-mail backup during the day. "We aim to keep app response time low," says Blonda, "and the number of connected users high."
Baudet says New Balance tried other Fibre Channel switches, but "Sandial applies Ethernet quality of service and reliability. No other Fibre Channel switch has the same functionality."
One analyst confirms that Sandial achieves differentiation over switch leaders Brocade, Cisco, and McData. Sandial is putting its stake in the ground for network quality of service, according to Mike Fisch, an analyst at the Clipper Group. "Sandial should be able to help with server and storage consolidation, economic efficiencies, and more control over the service levels that apps experience," says Fisch. "If some apps are more critical, Sandial could mean more control to ensure workers get their jobs done."
Another customer looked at Cisco at the same time he was checking out Sandial. "Cisco was all theory, but there was no product there," says Rob Edwards, network infrastructure manager at IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. IDEXX is involved in the development and commercialization of technology-based products and services for veterinary, food, and environmental apps. "I don't think the Shadow 14000 has burped once."
Edwards is responsible for around 150 Windows servers and consolidating that many direct-attached storage devices onto a SAN with an HP XP N24 at the center, storing 50 terabytes of data and counting. According to Edwards, the Sandial switch is already improving the performance of two very important apps, VetConnect.com and EConsult.com. "This spring, I hope to present to the whole company how Sandial could help us all be more productive," says Edwards.
Sandial has already helped IDEXX cut down on administrative costs. Over six months, Edwards compared the amount of manpower it used to take to provision capacity, identify network problems, and ensure better access performance for users. "We cut our administrative time down by 300%," he says. "I don't think anyone on my team has had to go in there at all."