Nishan: Building a Base

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Nishan Systems is also placing emphasis on partnerships in an effort to make its multiprotocol switches,the IPS 4000, 3000 and 2000 series,as common as Cisco routers.

"There is a lot of work that takes place behind closed doors in putting these solutions together," Orenstein says. "Your product is not complete as a standalone entity. It has to be integrated with a variety of storage partners."

The San Jose, Calif.-based company recently signed a deal with XIOtech, a subsidiary of Seagate Technology, permitting customers that use Fibre Channel or IP networks to connect XIOtech's Magnitude SAN hardware at multiple locations for high-speed data replication. Dell Computer also is reselling Nishan's switches through its software and peripherals business, while IBM Global Services offers consulting services for Nishan IP storage products.

"Storage networking decisions are still driven by working with large subsystems companies," Orenstein says. "That part of the market has not changed."

As a 4-year-old company, Nishan has come to this point after reversing course in trying to make its proprietary Internet Fibre Channel Protocol (IFCP) the leading standard just when IP storage started a buzz in the storage sector. Its initial course may have cost the company. Nishan lost some ground when it went loggerheads with IBM and Cisco Systems,backers of the iSCSI standard.

"Nishan fought the wrong battle. That cost them about six months," says Arun Taneja, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, Milford, Mass. "Their products should have occupied a higher ground if [IFCP had been submitted as an open standard."

Nishan now is marketing its switches to support both IFCP and iSCSI, because Fibre Channel is still widely used. While IP switches are available, the technology won't be complete until the network interface cards (NICs)/adapters are available (expected in the first quarter of 2002) and made compatible with storage subsystems,which is not expected for at least a couple of years.

"If a customer buys an iSCSI NIC, they can plug it into a server...but what is that server going to talk to?" asks Tom Clark, Nishan's director of technical marketing. "We have a huge installed base of FC storage arrays. Those are not going to fall off the books immediately."

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