What is the rate of SAN adoption?

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It's no secret that storage area networks (SANs) have been the most exciting-and the most hyped-storage trend over the last few years. But how many of you have actually deployed a SAN?

No definitive study of SAN adoption exists, but if you piece together a number of surveys, you can get a good idea. For example, in a survey of 739 InfoStor readers, 403 (55%) of the respondents said they planned to purchase SAN hardware over the next six months (implying, of course, that they already had a SAN or were planning to build one this year). And 320 respondents (43%) planned to purchase SAN management software within the next six months.

But those are the hard-core storage professionals- which include a mix of end users and integrators- who read InfoStor. What about the more general IT population?

In a survey of 86 companies conducted by Robert W. Baird & Co., a London-based financial services firm, about 50% had implemented a SAN as of last year. The study estimated that within the next two years, about 76% of those companies will have implemented a SAN.

According to a survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets and the Computing Technology Industry Association, 46% of companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue have already deployed a SAN. Among companies with revenue of $250 million to $1 billion, 25% have deployed a SAN, and 14% of small enterprises ($50 million to $250 million) have implemented a SAN. (For more information on the RBC survey, see "Fastest SAN growth expected in mid-tier enterprises," p. 1.)

The RBC study also predicts that initial SAN deployments will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 37% over the next two years and that SAN- attached storage will account for more than 50% of total storage capacity in 2003.

Those numbers seem a bit high to me, but it's hard to argue with surveys.

Perhaps more interesting than how many SANs have been deployed is why users did-and did not-implement SANs. According to the Baird survey, in response to the question, "Why did you decide to install a Fibre Channel SAN?", the overwhelming majority cited scalability and/or resource sharing (62% of the respondents), followed by performance (25%), reliability (18%), availability/redundancy (12%), manageability (12%), and backup (11%).

As for why they had not installed a Fibre Channel SAN, a whopping 62% cited high cost.

The cost complaint has not fallen on deaf ears in the vendor community. As evidence, a number of Fibre Channel switch vendors are selling low-end switches for less than $1,000 per port, claiming parity with Ethernet switches. Well, that claim's not exactly true, but the emphasis on lower prices should come as great news to those companies that are evaluating SAN implementations under tight budget constraints.

Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief

This article was originally published on March 01, 2002