Sandial Dials Up a New Class of Storage Switch

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Sandial Systems has developed what it claims is the first “backbone-class” storage area network (SAN) switch, the Shadow 14000.

Sandial's Shadow 14000

Shadow 14000

A storage backbone switch goes further than conventional director-class Fibre Channel switches by providing visibility and control of network traffic to guarantee performance for business-critical applications, according to the Portsmouth, N.H.-based SAN switch solutions provider. So far, the idea is catching on — the company already claims more than 20 customers since the switch became generally available in October.

“In order to offer a range of backup service offerings, Covenant requires a utility infrastructure that can accommodate multiple service levels,” states
Keith Grund, CIO of Covenant Technology Solutions. “Sandial’s storage backbone switch was the only product on the market that could uphold performance requirements for each of our clients in a highly consolidated environment.”

Rob Edwards, network infrastructure manager at IDEXX Laboratories, told Enterprise Storage Forum that Sandial delivers “performance and control consistent with modern data networking technologies, like rate limiting and traffic shaping,” and gives IDEXX the ability to establish and promote Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with users for storage access.

Analysts also like what they see of Sandial so far.

“Sandial has a very unique solution that does offer capabilities that no other director-class switch currently has,” says Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

“While the other switch vendors have focused on intelligence from the perspective of offering storage services in the fabric, Sandial has focused on providing network intelligence,” Marrone-Hurley told ESF. “That is, they can monitor the performance of each connection and dynamically change the configuration of the network to meet bandwidth demands.”

With QoS (Quality of Service) focused on bandwidth, the Shadow 14000 makes sure that high priority applications receive their allotted bandwidth, even if they are sharing resources with other applications, according to Marrone-Hurley.

“Today, switch performance is really not an issue,” she continues. “However, SAN configurations may inadvertently cause bottlenecks due to the sporadic
nature of certain applications’ traffic patterns. Only Sandial will be able to address those unpredictable design issues on the fly.”

“I expect they will get some traction in the market, especially at the high end,” states Michael Fisch, director of storage and networking at The Clipper Group. “Their differentiation is a more advanced form of QoS for SANs. They can prioritize traffic and allocate bandwidth on a percentage basis if there
is contention, so one server gets 30%, another gets 50%, and so forth. This paves the way for SAN consolidation, for which I believe there is market demand.”

Sandial says the Shadow 14000 Storage Backbone Switch intelligently provisions network resources on a per-connection basis through a unique connection-oriented switching architecture called ConnectIQ. The architecture allows visibility into network performance profiles of individual traffic flows between SAN-attached resources, letting IT managers allocate network bandwidth to optimize application performance.

ConnectIQ features a connection-oriented, schedule-based switching architecture for enforcing bandwidth policy, supporting constantly changing application and business requirements, according to the company. ConnectIQ recognizes individual traffic flows from source port to destination port in the context of every other traffic flow in the backbone, presenting real-time traffic profiles to identify when, where, and to what degree congestion is occurring. As users identify opportunities for improvement or shifts in application requirements, ConnectIQ enables them to implement bandwidth policies that best support business requirements.

Other features include Time Division Multiplex (TDM) connection intelligence, scalability to 288 interfaces and 80,000 concurrent traffic flows, high availability, flexibility, and integrated management.

Pricing for the Shadow 14000 starts at about $150,000.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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