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Having recently made the decision to go 100 percent channel and unveiled its first channel program a month ago, Coraid is dramatically expanding its potential customer base with new storage products that extend its reach beyond its Linux and array roots.

Based in Redwood City, Calif., the company is announcing a new line of EtherDrive SRX-Series storage arrays, and host bus adapters (HBAs) enabling high-speed Ethernet SAN access for Windows, Solaris, and Linux environments. 

Coraid started shipping its EtherDrive storage arrays in 2005 and now has more than 1,100 customers worldwide, says VMware veteran Josh Leslie, who took over the channel responsibilities four months ago. He tells Channel Insider the new products pose an interesting dilemma for the company.

“The good news is that we compete with everybody. The bad news is that is we compete with everybody.”

Combining commodity hardware and Ethernet with Coraid’s custom software, EtherDrive storage arrays enable a scale-out SAN architecture that starts at under $500 per terabyte and scales to multiple petabytes. The price performance advantage over Fibre Channel and iSCSI solutions can be as high as 500 percent to 800 percent, says Leslie.

The company got its start targeting the more costly and more complex storage technologies, but its new focus is virtualization, he says. Up until a year ago, Coraid was Linux only, but then it added the VMware environment.

“Virtualization is changing everything… [and] it turns out our storage is the perfect complement to virtualization. You can only get the benefits out of virtualization if you have shared storage, and that’s now something that the midmarket and SMBs need.”

The new arrays consist of: EtherDrive SRX2800, a 16-drive appliance, 3.5″ drives, up to 32 TB capacity, 3U form factor and dual power supplies; SRX3200, a 24-drive appliance, 3.5″ drives, up to 48 TB capacity, 4U form factor and dual power supplies; and SRX3500, a 24-drive appliance, 2.5″ drives, up to 12 TB capacity, 2U form factor and dual power supplies.

The HBAs are available in 2 x 1-Gb Ethernet and 2 x 10-Gb Ethernet configurations, and multiple HBAs can be deployed in “port-flooding” mode to provide additional throughput and availability. They support Linux, Windows servers, as well as Hyper-V server virtualization environments, and Ethernet SAN integration for Solaris and OpenSolaris environments, including integration with ZFS.

The storage arrays are available immediately while the HBAs will ship later this quarter.

The SRX line provides a significant increase in performance, says Leslie, enabling the company to compete with best in the industry at a price lower than anybody else. With the new arrays and HBAs, Coraid will be able to address almost any customer need with “best-in-class performance and costs.”

He notes that one of their customers was able to replace their existing storage for less than the cost of maintaining their old storage. The new line will work with Coraid’s existing SR line pretty seamlessly, he says.

Historically, Coraid sold direct, over the Web, and through the channel, but that doesn’t work, says Leslie. He says with the channel, it’s all or nothing. “You can’t have partners looking over their shoulders.” The company is transitioning very quickly to a channel-only model, he adds.

One of the challenges is the very size of the market opportunity. “There is no customer that couldn’t benefit from using our
technology.” But virtualization is an exciting opportunity that is moving down market. Customers who are turned off by entry-level price tags in the $75,000 range are much more interested when Coraid shows them they can do the same job at $20,000. “We’re getting a lot of traction there.”

After winnowing out its ranks of channel partners from 200 to 35, Leslie is slowly building it back up. He says they get 5-10 requests a week, but they’re only signing up those with both the technical expertise and share Coraid’s vision. Rather than seeking partners with a storage background, the company is focusing on those with virtualization skills, VMware, Citrix or
Symantec.  “At the end of the day, we don’t want a partner that doesn’t think we can be their top product.”