Andiamo adds weight to Cisco’s storage push

Cisco is pulling no punches as it moves more heavily into the storage market. As part of its plan to strengthen its portfolio of storage solutions, the vendor has acquired SAN specialist, Andiamo Systems.

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By  Zoe Moleshead Published  October 6, 2002

Andiamo acquisition|~||~||~|Cisco is pulling no punches as it moves more heavily into the storage market and challenges for a top position in the storage area networking (SAN) sector. As part of its plan to strengthen its portfolio of storage solutions, the vendor has acquired SAN specialist, Andiamo Systems.

The acquisition, which when finalised in 2004 will cost Cisco anywhere between nothing and US$2.5 billion, enables the company to move away from the emerging iSCSI market and dive into the more established fibre channel market.

“We came into storage area networking with our knowledge in IP. [While this] pushed the IP storage networking vision of Cisco, we needed more products based on fibre channel,” says Bernard Zeutzius, storage networking product manager, Cisco Systems, Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA).

Initially these products include Andiamo’s high end fibre channel switch and director MDS 9000 range. Zeutzius says the MDS family, which will be available in the Middle East before the year end, will capitalise on the technologies of both vendors to push current fibre channel port density and speed limits.

“The MDS 9000… brings a number of intelligent network services to the fibre channel market. Everything that we [Cisco] have developed for our data network, such as Quality of Service (QoS), security and flow control are now available for fibre channel networks as well,” he explains.

Following the acquisition, SAN stalwarts, such as Brocade were quick to accuse Cisco of deserting the iSCSI market. Although, the vendor concedes that fibre channel is by far the dominant technology in the storage market, it has reiterated its commitment to IP storage.

“We are moving heavily into the fibre channel market because this is probably the incumbent way of doing storage networking for the next 3-5 years. But, it does not mean that we are quitting IP storage networking. iSCSI is still extremely important to our value proposition in storage networking,” says Zeutzius.

Zeutzius also welcomed the news that iSCSI is nearing ratification, following the acceptance of a draft standard by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

“Because iSCSI isn’t ratified, the market is very shy about using it, this doesn’t prevent us from selling products and solutions, but [it’s] not at the pace we would expect for IP storage,” he says.

Although the move should stimulate the uptake of the technology, some analysts are still advising end user caution.

“For now, enterprises should largely ignore this announcement as it marks one of many milestones down a long road. Enterprises should await further developments before adopting iSCSI for production use,” warns a Gartner Group report.

Andiamo represents the vendor’s fourth acquisition this year, leading critics to accuse Cisco of buying their way into various markets, rather than investing in developing their own technologies and products. Zeutzius, however, defends the company’s strategy saying that it is merely responding to customer demand.

“Most of our customers were waiting for Cisco to move into these markets… and acquiring companies is just one way of extending our product portfolio. In the case of fibre channel, because it is only 4-5 years old, acquiring a company was the best way to do it,” he explains.

With Cisco making much noise about its plans in the SAN market, the Andiamo acquisition will add much needed weight to its product portfolio, allowing the vendor to capitalise on the meagre share it has accrued in the storage arena so far.

“Because we only had an iSCSI value proposition… we have just grabbed a very small market share, probably in the range of 1% of the storage networking market,” says Zeutzius. “However, now that we are moving into the fibre channel market and are in direct competition with people like Brocade and McData, we aim at grabbing more and more market share — the aim is for Cisco to be number one or two in the storage market,” he adds.||**||

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