LSI Logic Channel Effort Foreshadows Lower-Cost SANs

The company this week also introduced new products aimed at cutting the cost of building SANs within medium-size businesses.

To complement its OEM business, LSI Logic is developing a channel that includes makers of custom systems and resellers looking to add value to commercial systems

Kerry Reid, senior director of worldwide channel sales, said the Milpitas, Calif.-based company has a three-tier channel program. LSI Logic today has about 300 partners, he said. His goal is to have 3,000 registered partners by the end of the year, with another 300 certified partners and an additional 30 premier partners.

"There are no volume commitments associated with being a registered partner, but there are with the certified and premier levels," Reid said.

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This week, LSI Logic demonstrated new software aimed at easing the deployment of SANs. According to company executives , the new MyStorage management software allows midrange solution providers to offer enterprise-class SAN capabilities to the midrange space.

Steve Looby, product manager for the company's host bus adapter (HBA) products, said LSI Logic in finalizing beta testing of two versions of MyStorage. The beta tests are expected to be finished this quarter.

Looby said the first version includes remote management capabilities so that all LSI Logic HBAs, regardless of SAN size, can be monitored and diagnosed via a single console from anywhere on the network.

The software also eases installation by allowing solution providers to validate drivers, provide updated drivers if needed, and set up defaults, all with just six mouse clicks, Looby said. "It just asks what directory to install into, and then does it all automatically," he said. "You don't need a Ph.D. to do the installation. We took great pains to make it easier to install."

MyStorage will be bundled with LSI Logic HBAs, drivers and cables in kits for distribution when the software comes out of beta, he said.

LSI Logic is also preparing a version of MyStorage with dynamic multi-pathing capabilities that allow fail-over to a second HBA should the primary adapter fail, adding redundancy to low-cost SANs, Looby said. This version will be licensed to storage array vendors looking to sell midrange-price versions of their arrays through their own channels, he said.

John D'Errico, executive vice president of the company's Storage and Communication Group, said solution providers should expect to see SAN pricing to fall significantly in 2004, making the technology more attractive to a broader base of SMB customers.

"The prices of Fibre Channel have just been held up for too long," D'Errico said. "[They're] holding down adoption. This is why you still have such a large portion of storage today direct-attached to servers. If we want to expand the business, we have to get the pricing down."

Pricing for SANs at the user level should fall to about $500 per channel, compared with existing prices that range from $800 to $1,000 per channel, D'Errico said.

Part of that strategy will also involve creating Fibre Channel products that lack the full feature sets of their enterprise counterparts, but that will make it easier to install and manage SANs, he said.

Those efforts, however, are likely to further retard the adoption of iSCSI solutions, D'Errico said. "I think iSCSI is going to happen," he said. "But it's not going to be as soon as people thought, or [be] as big. And it's certainly not going to put Fibre Channel out of business."

D'Errico said LSI Logic will bring out its first 4-Gbyte Fibre-channel offering by midyear. It currently offers 2-Gbyte products.

In addition to Fibre-channel and iSCSI products, LSI Logic also offers a variety of SCSI, RAID and SATA products, and counts Tech Data and Ingram Micro among its distribution partners.

Brad Wenzel, president and CEO of Wenzel Data, a Stillwater, Minn.-based solution provider, said he is definitely seeing more vendors use software as a way to add enterprise-level capabilities to their lower-cost hardware.

"Through software, [vendors] are able to provide more uptime than they can just with their hardware," Wenzel said. "Most errors in this market are due to people, not hardware failures."