Troika Hangs On -

Troika Hangs On

In a market in which intelligent storage switch startups have faced tough going, Troika Networks may have what it takes to be a survivor.

Troika announced $14.4 million in second-round funding this week, with Anthem Ventures Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, DynaFund Ventures, Hamilton Technology Ventures and Windward Ventures all participating in the round.

With Pirus, Rhapsody and Sanera acquired, Candera and Sandial shut down, and Maranti on the block, Troika and MaXXan may soon be the last two standalone intelligent switch startups.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at the Taneja Group, thinks Troika will make it — although perhaps not as a standalone company.

"I believe they will make it to profitability," Taneja told Enterprise Storage Forum.

"The difference is that they are the only purpose-built appliance (PBA) left in the industry," he said. "In other words, if you want an enterprise-level solution for virtualization, you will either go to an intelligent switch (Cisco, Brocade, McData, MaXXan) and use EMC Invista with it, or you will maintain your layer 2 switches you already have from Brocade or McData and add Troika PBA. Given that the installed base of layer 2 switches is obviously huge, enough people would want to add a PBA and get the job done at much less expense.

"In my view, Candera should have stayed funded, as I believe the market could bear two PBAs," Taneja added. "I never had much hope for Maranti. ... That leaves Troika. I think they will get scooped up in the next 12 months."

In a statement, a Maranti spokesperson told ESF, "Maranti has been in discussions to sell the company and are exploring those options at this time. With that said, if they don't secure a buyer, they will not seek additional funding to move the company forward."

Troika's success can be attributed to its intellectual property and streamlined capital needs. The company began life in 1998 as an HBA vendor, pioneering its dual-path approach with that technology. When the company sold its HBA business to JNI (now part of AMCC) in 2002, it used its IP to develop a storage application platform. With fewer development needs than competitors, Troika was able to survive with less capital, marketing vice president Steve O'Brian told ESF.

The company began shipping its ASIC-based hosting platform in late 2003, and has about two dozen customers and climbing, O'Brian said. The company recently joined StorageTek's TekAlliance Partner Program, expects to announce an OEM deal in the second half of the year, and also boasts a strong network of channel partners.

"We're feeling like we have the channel structure to get the products to market, along with the maturity to not hit some of the stumbling blocks that some of our competitors did," O'Brian said.

Interestingly, the product most technologically similar to Troika's is EMC's new Invista product — both share a "split path" approach separating data from control functions.

O'Brian said Troika welcomes EMC's entry into the intelligent storage switch space. "It's brought new opportunities to the table for bringing the virtualization market to the mainstream," he said.

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