But homegrown code still prevalent
By Sonia R. Lelii
Reality is starting to catch up to hype as more and more users have either installed or plan to install storage resource management (SRM) software, according to a recent end-user survey conducted by TheInfoPro (www.TheInfoPro.net), a research firm based in New York City.
According to TheInfoPro's "Technology Heat Index"—which measures the relative immediacy of IT storage spending plans by technology—SRM, disk-to-disk backup, and storage capacity forecasting topped the list of storage management spending projects (see figure).
The survey concluded that SRM, which has been hyped for more than two years, is finally taking off. For example, SRM posted a perfect 100 score in the Heat Index, and 51% of the responding companies said that they had already implemented SRM. In this year's survey, SRM garnered almost twice the responses that it received in TheInfoPro's 2003 survey, indicating a significant pickup in end-user adoption over the last year.
"SRM has taken a while to get a foothold," says Ken Male, founder of TheInfoPro. "It's still not at a rapid [adoption] pace, but it's clearly underway."
EMC leads the SRM market by a long shot, followed by Computer Associates, Veritas, and IBM/Tivoli, according to the survey. Although SRM is one of the hottest near-term opportunities, automated backup is still the most widely installed of all storage management technologies, followed by alternate path management and (in-house) disaster recovery.
These survey findings, which covered all aspects of the storage management market as well as networked storage, are based on extensive interviews with 250 companies. The majority of the companies were in the financial services, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and technology industries. Of the 250 respondents surveyed, 150 were in the Fortune 1000 category. The rest are mid-sized companies. Most of the companies are US-based, although the survey included a small sampling of European-based companies.
The topics covered included specific issues such as end users' pain points, emerging technologies, and spending plans over the next one to two years.
Roll your own
One of the more interesting findings in the survey was the prevalence of "homegrown" storage management solutions. For example, when asked which vendors they currently have installed or plan to install for storage management, a whopping 63% cited homegrown software, followed by EMC at 58%, Veritas at 55%, and IBM at 51%. Nine vendors garnered double-digit percentages in this part of the survey (in decreasing order: SunGard, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Computer Associates, Hitachi Data Systems, Legato, StorageTek, Sun, and McData), and another 18 vendors managed a better-than-1% user response.
Homegrown management solutions are still the most popular options for implementing storage capacity forecasting, disaster recovery (in house), policy-based management, and recovery management (see table).
TheInfoPro's Male notes that many of the users in the survey have had to develop their own homegrown tools for storage management. That is particularly true of many of the early SAN adopters, because SAN management software barely existed until about three years ago, and it is still relatively weak today (see "SAN management: The good, the bad, the ugly," InfoStor, p. 20). As a result, vendors that are trying to sell storage management software to users have to give them a convincing reason to rip out what they have already developed in-house.
"In some cases, that's the quandary the storage management market is in right now," says Male. "It's a legacy effect. Out of necessity, users had to build homegrown products and these homegrown products are still entrenched."
For example, according to Male, TheInfoPro is currently conducting its next user survey and one of the interviewees is a financial services firm. That company developed its own proprietary SRM tools to help manage a SAN it implemented in the late 1990s.
Overall, the survey concluded that hardware continues to be a large portion of end users' storage budgets, but that software is rapidly becoming a bigger piece because users are looking to software to help maximize capacity and the utilization of storage resources that they purchased during the technology boom years. While nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents have at least one homegrown storage management application in their IT environment, this does not suggest that users prefer homegrown solutions or plan to switch to homegrown tools.
For this reason, some software vendors say they don't expect a tough sell. Scott Hansbury, senior vice president of marketing for CreekPath Systems, says many of the homegrown solutions involve IT storage administrators writing scripts and using Excel spreadsheets to manage capacity and track other storage characteristics in their infrastructures. Instead of working on bigger projects such as designing better storage environments, these managers are spending a lot of time working on manually intensive and time-consuming tools. "They are more than happy to stop writing these scripts," says Hansbury. Plus, executives are aware that homegrown tools are much more susceptible to human errors.
But TheInfoPro's Male warns that software vendors may have a steep mountain to climb because end users are becoming wary of software vendors attaching too much promise to the products they are selling. "There has been a lot of over-promising going on in the vendor community," says Male, "and the ones that seem to promise the most are software management vendors."
When asked what features or services they most wanted from their storage management vendors, 25% of the survey respondents cited price reduction as their number-one or number-two requirement, followed by better management tools (22%), better interoperability (21%), and performance improvements (20%), as shown in the figure.
Somewhat surprisingly, given the hype surrounding the emerging SMI-S storage management standard, only 7% of TheInfoPro's respondents cited standards support as one of the top two storage management requirements. TheInfoPro report did note, however, that "the low number for standards support does not mean that users don't desire standards, but their comments indicate they do not expect much near-term impact from the current standards."
The survey also concluded that, not surprisingly, implementation of disaster recovery and business continuity is on the rise. Those topics garnered nearly 25% more responses in this year's survey—compared to the 2003 survey—when users were asked about storage management technologies currently in use. But most of the disaster-recovery and business continuity technologies were designed in-house. For example, 75% of the respondents use in-house (or premises-based) disaster-recovery programs, while only 44% are outsourcing some or all of their disaster-recovery operations.