UK storage startup boosts US market presence

iSCSI SAN software specialists Stormagic adds US storage industry consultant to its team in a push to break into the SME market stateside.

UK-based iSCSI SAN software start-up Stormagic has appointed Boston-based industry luminary John McArthur to aid its push into the US market. McArthur, who is co-founder and president of consultancy firm Walden Technology Partners and a former VP with market analysis giant IDC, joins Stormagic's board of directors.

McArthur will work with the Stormagic management team to accelerate and expand the company's position in the growing SME storage market as well as in seeking partnerships with storage hardware vendors.

We looked at Overland and Maxtor, but they didn't work in our mixed server environment
Jon Edwards
IT officerOxford university
Stormagic CEO Hans O'Sullivan says, "John brings a massive amount of experience and a knowledge of the major market players which will help set the direction and strategy of the business. Our strategy is to go through the channel to SME customers mainly in the public sector, education and in video pre-production."

He adds, "At the same time we want to work with larger OEMs which have products aimed at SMEs and are looking for someone who can help them penetrate that market."

Stormagic, which was founded last year, currently has one UK channel partner – PowerNas – and five in the US. It claims 12 installations worldwide of which six are in the UK, with Oxford University and US financial analyst Weiss the only two named.

The firm's technology is centred on a software-based appliance approach to storage which allows users to consolidate data from their servers onto commodity storage hardware and treat it as an iSCSI SAN.

It provides a Windows-based interface that manages migration of data to the storage device from servers and to provision storage as required. Its key selling point is that it automates these tasks and doesn't require skills in specialised iSCSI SAN technologies, says Dennis Szubert, principal analyst with Quocirca.

"Essentially it discovers storage in your network environment and allows you to use hardware from any supplier, not necessarily the top brands. This makes it easier to get cheaper kit and put together a SAN, so it's good for the SME market," says Szubert.

He adds, "The company's leaders have a good track record of getting storage businesses off the ground. The focus on the SME sector with a product designed for that type of business is the right approach. It's a growing market and all too often the big players adapt enterprise products to it by just stripping out functionality."

Stormagic's small player ability to work closely with its customers swung the choice for two Oxford university departments which were looking to move storage away from direct-attached last year. The key obstacle for faculties of mediaeval and modern languages and linguistics was to find networked storage that would work with its diverse – Netware and Linux – server estate.

"We looked at other solutions but it was hard to find those that work with the servers we have," says Jon Edwards, IT officer. "Our direct-attached storage set up was dated and we wanted to deploy network-based data protection that would work with our Novell and Linux servers."

The faculty faced growing storage needs for file and print as well as for data-heavy MRI scan-based modelling information developed in research into human speech. The faculty uses three web servers running Netware 4, a Linux Beowulf cluster for the vocal tract modeling, and is rolling out two Netware 6.5 servers for file and print.

"We were desperately short of storage on the Beowulf cluster and with the roll out of the Netware 6.5 boxes we wanted to make sure we never have to increase the amount of direct attached storage they'd need," he says.

During the procurement process the faculty had to decide whether to go for Fibre Channel or iSCSI. It opted for a 12-bay Fibrenetix array with six 500GB Hitachi SATA hard disk drives giving 3terabytes of raw data formatted to 2TB in a RAID 6 configuration.

"We decided that Fibre Channel was too expensive," says Edwards. "We looked around the market for iSCSI and went to Fibrenetix who were working with Stormagic and we agreed to beta test their software."

He adds, "We had looked at a number of other vendors, such as Overland and Maxtor, but these didn't work with the mixed server environment we have. The iSCSI device needs to talk to all three servers. Not many storage devices work well with Netware, but the Stormagic development team was flexible, they listened to our feedback and incorporated it into the software."

Oxford University has been able to implement an iSCSI SAN that fits with its environment by using Stormagic software. But, the level of customisation it gained was, perhaps, predicated on the stage of development of Stormagic's business, says, Quocirca's Dennis Szubert.

"Working with a firm at this stage in their development and when they're small and nimble does mean it's easier to get them to work with you on specific projects," he says. "But, the danger is that as they gain greater adoption in the market their resources will spread more thinly as they service a wider customer base."

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