MaXXan Introduces Intelligent Storage Switch


Responding to the trend for intelligent switching storage platforms, startup MaXXan Systems Tuesday unveiled the MaXXan MXV320 SAN switching product, which pipes storage application functions such as virtualization and data replication as network services.

The San Jose, Calif. company is taking its products public after two and a half years in stealth mode and has also teamed with Veritas to create an SG100 Storage Gateway product.

The MXV320 intelligent switching platform, currently in end-user field trials as the company's first major product, combines some of the functionality normally found in a Fibre Channel director with those of a multi-protocol router and a server optimized for storage. In addition to virtualization and data replication, the platform allows for backup/restore and NAS to be deployed.

The technique, according to MaXXan Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing Jeff Silva, stems from a Storage Network World conference from a few years ago, when an end-user sprawled a representation of his storage area network (SAN) and asked the audience: "Why can't you deploy these applications from the network itself?"

The accusatory note struck a cord in Silva and some of his fellow MaXXan colleagues, and they set to work on a switching method that employs some of the philosophies of the telecommunications strategies for switching.

"That really did it for us," Silva told "We felt the technology [of the MXC320] was there to collapse a lot of the functionality into the network itself. We felt we had enough power to move data at line rates, and it could also be programmed to support higher-level application functions from the telco side."

Enterprise Storage Groups Founder and Senior Analyst Steve Duplessie said the intelligent switching concept has a lot of "potential for changing how things are done in the storage world."

Looking forward, Duplessie said such a model may eventually make it possible for deploying RAID functionality as a service of an intelligent SAN.

Silva said the MXV320 can scale from 10 to 320 ports, and, because of its modular build, is capable of sustaining wire speeds across all of its ports. Customers can re-configure Fibre Channel ports as Gigabit Ethernet ports for FC/IP connections and can use ports together to form large virtual connections across long distances. The system incorporates programmable network processor technology at each port, which provides an environment for migrating functionality into the SAN infrastructure itself rather than keeping it in the server, appliance or storage controller.

The MXV320 is managed by MaXXan's SANCruiser, a GUI-based management system that integrates with management framework products such as CA Unicenter, HP Openview, and Patrol from BMC.

Silva said MaXXan's approach to switching is different from such mainstays as Brocade because the company looks to implement the entire Fibre Channel protocol as software applications on network processors themselves, as opposed to Brocade's ASIC approach to Fibre Channel.

In the double dipper announcement Tuesday, the company also revealed its SG100 Storage Gateway, which MaXXan President and CEO Vic Mahadevan said is powered by NAS software from Veritas, including that storage software maker's Linux-based File System, Volume Management and Cluster Management technology. The pre-installed software makes implementation and management easier for customers.

Mahadevan told the SG100 Storage Gateway is primed for Input/output performance and implements dual Intel Xeon processors, four PCI-X buses, up to 12 GB of memory, ten 2-Gb fibre channel ports, two 1-Gb Ethernet ports, and additional ports for heartbeat, management and application-specific requirements. The SG100 is available in standalone and cluster configurations.

The MaXXan MXV320 is shipping for customer field trials, and while set costs have not been established, MaXXan executives said customers currently using it do so to the tune of $250,000. The MaXXan SG100Storage Gateway is now shipping to certain resellers in the United States and Canada beginning at $44,600.

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