Sandial Targets the High End

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Sandial Systems is announcing its entry into the storage networking market with what it claims is an innovative “backbone” approach.

The SAN switch company also announced a key customer addition — athletic shoe manufacturer New Balance, which Sandial states is “one of several Global
2000 customers working with Sandial to construct storage network backbones that operate as an independent utility to align corporate information assets with business goals.” Sandial boasts that its switching technology “brings unprecedented levels of visibility and control to large-scale storage area networks (SANs).”

“Sandial’s extreme focus on improving data center plumbing is evident in the connection intelligence it is bringing to the SAN,” says Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group. “By implementing a storage network backbone, enterprises of all kinds can harness the efficiency of a consolidated storage environment, enabling a long-term strategic approach to architecting storage networks.”

The current generation of project-based SAN deployments is incapable of providing an enterprise-wide storage utility that consolidates server and storage resources for multiple applications, Sandial claims. The architectural limitations of current storage switching solutions include the inability to scale, the lack of high availability, and the failure to monitor or control specific network connections, the company says. Sandial’s storage network backbone solutions let businesses consolidate storage and server resources onto a single network backbone without sacrificing control or compromising application performance, according to the company.

Current storage networks offer best-effort delivery, where each device attached to the network receives the same service level on a first come, first served basis. “This approach neglects the fact that each application plays a unique role in the business, and therefore has different data access needs,” Sandial says.

That’s where Sandial comes in, with “the only storage networking solution available today with the capability to provision bandwidth among networked resources on a per-connection basis. This capability empowers IT professionals to manage the storage network backbone to better align their data center resources with constantly changing application requirements and business priorities.”

New Balance appears pleased with Sandial’s intelligent connection control-based approach.

“Sandial’s storage network backbone solution allows New Balance to control the behavior of the network infrastructure so that it serves specific business priorities,” says Pierre Baudet, business systems manager for New Balance Athletic Shoe. “It enables New Balance to architect its storage network for the first time using an ‘always on’ utility model, helping us to maximize efficiency, minimize down time, and maintain granular control over our storage network resources.”

The Gartner Group expects the SAN switching market to grow from $1.2B in 2002 to $4.3B in 2006, Sandial says, noting that the market is less than 30% penetrated, and high-end director switch revenue is expected to eclipse fabric switch revenue by 2005. Sandial also sees the high-growth director-class market extending to a new level of network control and application performance.

The company has its believers. Sandial has raised more than $50 million in funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, DB Capital Partners, Oak Hill Venture Partners, and Prism Venture Partners.

“The SAN space is still very nascent, and we believe that Sandial has the vision, development team, and executive talent to be first to market with a true storage network backbone that functions like a utility across the global enterprise,” affirms Jack Sweeney, General Partner, Prism Venture Partners. “Sandial is the perfect vehicle to raise the bar for storage as an always-on utility-class resource that is flexible, predictable, and reliable enough to be universally available at all times.”

Sandial says its product strategy, including its storage network backbone architecture, is the result of customer-driven feedback. The company has formed an advisory board composed of CTOs and IT managers, mainly from Fortune 50 companies, who have influenced the features and capabilities of the firm’s technology.

Technology industry veterans from Cabletron, Cascade, Chipcom, Lucent, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Nortel, and Prominet founded Portsmouth, N.H.-based Sandial in August 2000. The company’s President and CEO is Tim Lieto, who as vice president of North American sales was one of the chief architects of Chipcom’s success between 1987 and 1996. Lieto has also worked for companies such as Data General, Prominet, and Lucent.

“Our vision, strongly supported by our customers, investors, and advisors, is to architect an enterprise-wide storage network backbone through existing data storage technologies, but on a much more economical and manageable scale,” says Lieto. “We believe Sandial can help companies achieve greater profitability by enabling them to dynamically control network behavior.”

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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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