End users remain cautious about SANs

Posted on October 01, 1999

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End users remain cautious about SANs

Zachary Shess

A flood of vendor roadmap announcements and the growing acceptance of Fibre Channel increased end-user awareness of storage area networks (SANs) during 1999, according to a SAN report released last month by Peripheral Concepts, a market research firm in Santa Barbara, CA.

In an early-year survey of 50 IT managers in environments with an average of more than 3.8TB of capacity, more than half were unfamiliar with SANs, while 20% were somewhat familiar but had no implementation plans. The remaining 20% planned to install SANs within the next two years.

"Generally, users remain very cautious about SANs," says Farid Neema, president of Peripheral Concepts, "but awareness over the past four to six months has increased as the larger system and storage vendors provided more specific details of their SAN visions."

Despite increased awareness, survey results also showed continued reservation by some storage administrators. Due to SAN`s relative immaturity, many are still taking a wait-and-see approach, holding off purchases until interoperability, security, and end-to-end support issues are resolved. Others are concerned with the expense and complexity of the technologies involved, justifying it only for multi-terabyte environments.

Most users polled expressed concerns about investment protection, since today`s SAN components could soon be rendered obsolete because of current incompatibilities. In addition, administrators said having no single SAN vendor impeded implementation. "Users are waiting for their storage vendors to help them install SANs," says Neema.

For sites considering implementing SANs, the core reasons were the same: storage consolidation and/or Fibre Channel`s data access speed and connectivity. Neema estimates that 40% of the storage arrays shipped in 1999 will have Fibre Channel connections--twice that of 1998. That increase indicates that end-user awareness and SAN implementations are gaining momentum, he says.

Neema expects SAN-related revenue to top $2 billion this year, doubling to about $4 billion next year. He attributes the growth in part to corporate storage capacities, which are increasing at an average rate of more than 60% per year.

As Fibre Channel gains acceptance, SAN implementations are expected to grow significantly. One survey, for example, found that 30% of medium-size IT shops plan to connect tape libraries to Fibre Channel in the next 18 months.

In addition to server-less backup, administrators plan to use SANs for centralizing storage management, archiving, data replication, and disaster recovery. The most popular vertical SAN applications include OLTP, enterprise resource planning, e-commerce, broadcasting, pre-press and geophysics. Horizontal applications are backup, archiving, data replication, disaster protection, data sharing, and data warehousing.

For more information on the survey, visit Peripheral Concepts at www. periconcepts.com.

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