Survey reveals user priorities, SAN/NAS adoption rate

By Farid Neema

A recent survey of 323 IT managers at sites with more than 1TB of disk capacity, conducted by Peripheral Concepts, reveals a number of interesting conclusions regarding end users' storage priorities and the rate of adoption of storage area networks (SANs) and network-attached storage (NAS). The survey included extensive interviews with each of the IT managers.

The economic slump has not diminished end users' appetite for storage capacity. Companies have restrained expenses, purchased equipment previously owned by failed dot.com companies, and are improving storage utilization through resource consolidation. But those cost-containment measures have not curtailed the trend toward storage networking, including SAN and NAS (see charts).

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Surprisingly, the survey reveals that about one-third of the IT managers do not know if they have a SAN or NAS. Of the remaining two-thirds interviewed, 63% have at least one SAN, and an additional 11% plan to install one in the next 18 months. About 38% of the sites have installed NAS, and an additional 22% plan to install NAS in the next 18 months. At the end of the 18-month period, about half of the surveyed population will have both SAN and NAS installed at their sites.

The survey shows that disk capacity continued to grow in 2001, but at a slower pace—40% per year, as opposed to an average of 60% per year over the preceding five years. The capacity is about evenly divided between internal and external storage, with a distinct trend toward external storage.

In similar interviews conducted since 1995, IT managers' key storage requirements—availability, manageability, scalability, performance, and cost—have remained the same, but prioritization has shifted over the years. For example, a few years ago availability topped the list. Scalability became a priority when service providers emerged, and cost climbed to the top during the worst of the economic slowdown. This year, however, performance is number one on the list of users with more than 1TB of disk capacity (see figure).

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Three significant additions to end users' "most wanted" list include adaptability (the ability to connect to other hardware or software modules, and to changing applications), interoperability, and security.

In terms of applications, backup remains a major concern, and data replication (both local and remote) has become a key application for both security reasons and for fast access to data. Other applications and services that emerged as high priorities this year included heterogeneous data sharing, storage provisioning, and quality of service.

A relatively low number of users are aware of, or interested in, technologies that are touted by vendors, industry analysts, and the trade press, including:

  • Storage virtualization and aggregation;
  • Intelligent "universal" (multi-protocol) switches;
  • Protocol tunneling and IP storage;
  • InfiniBand;
  • Data accelerators; and
  • Content distribution networking.

However, end users are interested in other much-touted technologies, such as:

  • Centralized management and storage area management;
  • Storage resource management (SRM) software;
  • Automated policy-driven provisioning; and
  • Appliances and low-cost, entry-level storage network configurations.

The full analysis of this survey, which included nearly 300 questions per respondent, will be published by Peripheral Concepts later this month and presented at the Network Storage 2002 conference, in Santa Clara, CA, June 17-20. For more information, visit www.periconcepts.com.

Farid Neema is the president of Peripheral Concepts (www.periconcepts.com), which sponsors the Network Storage conference and trade show.

This article was originally published on May 01, 2002