JNI Acquires Virtual HBA Technology License From Troika


$10M deal gives JNI future control over development of the technology


JNI, a developer of Fibre Channel and InfiniBand hardware and software, is looking to beef up its enterprise-class storage management technology on the Windows side by acquiring an exclusive to technology from Troika Networks, a Westlake Village, Calif.-based developer of Fibre Channel products, company executives said.

In a deal valued at up to $10 million, JNI will gain an exclusive source-code license to Troika's Path Command Plus software, exclusive distribution rights for Troika's Zentai family of SCSI-to-Fibre Channel host bus adapters, and control of sales and support for all current Zentai adapters and Path Command Plus software currently in the market. JNI will also pay royalties to Troika for the software.

JNI plans to eventually integrate the Path Command Plus software into its FibreStar family of 2 Gbits-per-second host bus adapters, said Chris Wildermuth, director for strategic marketing at the company. In the interim, JNI will sell Troika's host bus adapters, he said.

JNI specializes in high-end host bus adapters, particularly in the Solaris space, but also under Windows, HP-UX, AIX, Novel and Linux, Wildermuth said.

However, Path Command Plus offers a number of key features aimed at managing host bus adapters, Wildermuth said. These include failover, where a data stream can automatically be routed to a new data path if a host bus adapter goes down; failback, where that adapter is automatically put back into the data stream if it becomes available; and load balancing, where the data stream can be dynamically split between multiple data paths.

While other vendors such as EMC and Veritas offer similar functions, they are typically robust in certain environments and not in others, Wildermuth said.

Path Command Plus also offers another feature, which Wildermuth called virtual host bus adapter services. In a typical storage network environment with multiple host bus adapters, a server normally sees each as a separate device. However, under the virtual host bus adapter concept, the server will see one host bus adapter with up to eight paths.

"If one of the paths goes down, normally the host would fail it, then need time to move the connection," Wildermuth said. "The system could freeze, especially under Windows. But with Path Command Plus, when the server sees a path go down, it continues to work with the remaining paths. The host operating system is not affected, except maybe it runs a bit slower."

Such capabilities are key to helping drive the Windows OS into the enterprise, Wildermuth said. "Many Windows users, even at the enterprise scale, are not willing to make the investment in Veritas because of the cost," he said. "The Solaris guys will do it, but they won't invest on the Wintel side."

The main reason Troika's technology has remained relatively unknown in the market is the fact that the company itself is a relative unknown when compared to vendors such as JNI, Wildermuth said. "Troika is not a big name," he said. "They don't even refer to it as virtual host bus adapter technology. They called it Zentai."

Troika itself will remain an independent company focusing specifically on technology aimed at turning storage into a service, Wildermuth said. Troikat does not plan to integrate the Path Command Plus technology into its products and eventually will turn development over to JNI.

The deal gives solution providers a single source for a wide variety of enterprise-class host bus adapters, Wildermuth said. "VARs are more often putting together heterogeneous storage environments, typically using Solaris and Windows, or HP-UX and Windows," he said. "In the past, while they looked at us for Solaris, for Windows they had to turn to Emulex or QLogic or Troika for host bus adapters."

Shares of JNI closed up 37 cents at $7.87 on Monday after the release of the news.