S-A-N, R-O-I, M-O-N-E-Y

Posted on April 01, 2000

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If you're an IT manager tasked with making storage purchases, you're probably up to speed on the potential benefits of storage area networks. But you're also probably wondering what the payback will be, and how long it will take.

If you're a third-party storage integrator, you're definitely aware of the benefits of SANs, but you're probably having a hard time convincing your customers that it makes sense from a financial perspective. Lack of adequate return on investment (ROI) data is a real showstopper at most IT shops.

Have no fear. Mark Teter's "Calculating SAN return on investment," p. 30, provides a detailed cost-benefit analysis. Based on real-life examples, his article examines specific before/after configuration examples, matches them to the cost-benefit analysis, and concludes with compelling ROI projections. Your mileage will vary, but Mark's article provides a good worksheet to calculate your own SAN ROI.

In his example, the first-year savings (12-month ROI) from implementing a SAN is $60,400. And that's for a relatively small configuration. In general, Mark's analysis shows that you can expect a 12- to 24-month payback from implementing a SAN.

What about interoperability?

"Fine," you say, "but what about those interoperability issues?" Although lack of interoperability among Fibre Channel devices from different vendors has received a fair share of press coverage, and has delayed SAN deployment at some sites, the storage industry has responded with vigor.

For evidence, read our Special Report this month, "Fibre Channel interoperability testing," p. 20, by Dave Deming. Dave tackled the daunting task of putting together a variety of SAN configurations with 52 different products from 33 vendors.

Dave's an expert at this (he's been testing Fibre Channel products since 1994), so, again, your mileage may vary. But I think his tests prove that lack of interoperability is no longer a legitimate reason for procrastinating on SAN implementations.

And if you don't understand the advantages of SANs from an applications standpoint, check out Ron Levine's "LAN-free, server-less backup benefits," p. 38, which takes a look at the initial "killer apps" for SANs.


Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief
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So, let's see: We're giving you the tools to justify SANs from the financial, interoperability, and applications angles. So what are you waiting for? Oh, yeah, there's that management issue. Stay tuned: we'll be providing tips on how to manage the SAN morass in future issues of InfoStor.

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Gigabit Ethernet vs. Fibre Channel

There's been a lot of controversy recently regarding the relative roles of Fibre Channel and InfiniBand in the future. Although that topic is interesting, there may be a much more intriguing-and near-term-battle brewing: Fibre Channel vs. Gigabit Ethernet.

We open our coverage of this topic this month, with Jon Toigo's Opinion piece, "SANs and sensibility: Back to IP," p. 48. Although this controversy has been brewing for some time, recent developments are fanning the fires. For example, IBM and Cisco have developed a proposed standard for running SCSI over IP and Gigabit Ethernet.

A lot of people in the storage industry have been wondering why Cisco hasn't entered the Fibre Channel market. Well, it may be because Cisco sees Fibre Channel as sort of an interim solution, and that storage over Gigabit Ethernet is the better long-term solution. If Cisco (and other network equipment leaders) comes screaming into the storage industry, this year may make last year's storage market seem tame and dull (and it was anything but).


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