User survey reveals storage networking trends

Posted on July 01, 2003

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By Dave Simpson

Although the adoption rate of storage area networks (SANs) has slowed over the last year, a recent survey of 192 storage professionals shows that users are leaning heavily toward SANs relative to network-attached storage (NAS). For example, 37% of the survey respondents planned a major shift toward SANs, with little growth in NAS expenditures, over the next 12 to 18 months (see figure below).

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However, it should be noted that the storage networking trends survey, by New York-based TheInfoPro, was stilted heavily toward larger organizations that already had at least one SAN installed. For example, 77% of the companies had annual revenues of more than $1 billion (and 20% exceeded $30 billion per year), and 93% of the companies had more than 1,000 employees (62% had more than 10,000 employees).

According to other industry estimates, the prognosis for the NAS market is not as bad as might be indicated by TheInfoPro survey results (see related article, below).

Analysts attribute the slowdown in SAN adoption and spending primarily to the slow economy, but also to factors such as perceived interoperability problems and high costs. But TheInfoPro survey indicates that SAN users are getting pretty good prices on their SAN-attached arrays. For example, pricing of less than $0.04 per raw megabyte is common. In fact, 67% of the respondents paid less than $0.06 per MB, and 17% paid less than $0.03 per MB (see figure).

For Fibre Channel switches and directors, per-port pricing varies widely, but the majority (61%) of the companies paid between $1,000 and $2,000 per port, with $1,500 being the most commonly cited price (presumably for switches, not director-class switches).

In another reflection of the weak economy and tight IT budgets, "price" was cited as the number-one criterion (by 41% of the respondents) for selecting a SAN vendor. And "high price" was the number-one reason (43% of respondents) that users rejected SAN vendors.

Overall, companies achieve a positive return on investment (ROI) from their major storage acquisitions (see figure). However, it's interesting to note that only 48 of the 192 companies surveyed were able to answer the ROI question, indicating that the majority of end-user companies do not—or are not able to—measure ROI.

In terms of market shares, TheInfoPro survey tracked fairly well with the estimates of research firms. Brocade and McData topped the switch/director list, and EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, and IBM/Tivoli topped the SAN vendor rankings.

As was the case with TheInfoPro's user survey on storage management trends (see "End users demand better management tools," InfoStor, June 2003, p. 1), the storage networking survey indicates that some of the technologies most hyped by both vendors and the press are in fact of least interest to IT executives and managers. Examples include InfiniBand, iSCSI, Serial ATA, TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs), and IP SANs (see figure).

In contrast, some of the more "mundane" technologies are high on users' implementation priority lists. Examples include Fibre Channel SANs, automated backup, and point-in-time copy. An emerging technology, sometimes referred to as "rapid restore," also ranked highly. (For more information on this technology and key players, see "Focus shifts from backup to recovery,")


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