SATA tops users’ ‘to-buy’ list

Posted on June 01, 2005

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By Ann Silverthorn

The four hottest storage networking technologies today are Serial ATA (SATA) disk drives, virtual tape libraries (VTLs), policy-based archiving, and remote data mirroring, according to a survey of 153 storage professionals in Fortune 1000 enterprises conducted by TheInfoPro (TIP) research firm (see figure). In general, IT storage professionals are making “tactical, low-cost moves,” according to Ken Male, CEO and founder of TheInfoPro and lead author of the Storage Networking report.

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The report notes that the most popular technologies reflect the move to lower-cost storage tiers as companies begin to implement information/data life-cycle management, alleviate the pain caused by tape-based backup/recovery, and meet the requirements of compliance regulations and business continuity mandates.

“Serial ATA is number one on TIP’s storage networking heat index for the third time in a row,” says Male. (The surveys are conducted every six months.) TIP’s “Technology Heat Index” is based on the immediacy of users’ need for each technology (as reflected in their implementation plans) weighted by their storage spending. The Heat Index is designed to show relative demand for a technology or, from a vendor’s perspective, the size of the market opportunity.

Although SATA disk drives (often used in tiered storage architectures and for disk-to-disk backup/recovery) topped the heat index chart, a number of survey respondents had mixed comments on the technology, particularly in the areas of performance and reliability. For example, one respondent noted: “The performance [of SATA] is better than expected, but the rebuild times are long and some of the microcode updates need to be done off-line that used to be done online. We’re not as satisfied as we had hoped. There have been a lot of reliability and configuration issues.”

Users rated VTLs second on the heat index. Surprisingly, nearly 75% of the TIP survey respondents plan to have a VTL in place by the end of 2006. “Virtual tape [in tandem with low-cost disk] scores well because of the big pain point of traditional tape-based backup and recovery,” says Male.

Policy-based archiving ranked third, in part because of increasing pressure for IT organizations to comply with government regulations for storing data. The survey results also indicate strong interest in an archival tier combining write-once, read-many (WORM) technology and tape.

Asynchronous remote data mirroring also scored high, reflecting strong demand for business continuance and regulatory compliance, according to Male.

Still in the top five, but dropping slightly in the rankings compared to previous surveys, are IP SANs based on the iSCSI protocol. “IP SANs have been moving down the list,” says Male. “There is still very strong interest, but relatively little adoption. IP SANs seem to be next year’s technology.”

Technologies move down in the heat index if they become ubiquitous (e.g., parallel SCSI) or if users delay plans for adoption. However, Male notes that being low on the list doesn’t mean that a technology is disappearing; it just means that it isn’t going to be implemented in the near-term.

Examples of technologies that generate a lot of talk (and ink) yet relatively little end-user adoption include fabric-based intelligence, virtual fabrics, storage security appliances, and storage grids.

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The TIP report also indicates healthy growth for both the SAN and NAS markets. For example, SAN capacity is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 40%, and NAS capacity is expected to grow at a 32% annual rate (see figure). Reflecting the relatively large size of the enterprises surveyed by TIP, the average SAN capacity per company was 279TB and the average NAS capacity was 83TB.


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