User survey shows fast growth for NAS

By Sonia R. Lelii

NAS is finally getting a stronger foothold into data centers, as more early SAN adopters within Fortune 1000 companies plan to increase the amount of storage capacity they put on NAS, according to an extensive end-user survey conducted by TheInfoPro, a research firm based in New York City.

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The study, which surveyed more than 200 storage professionals, found that Fortune 1000 companies expect to grow their NAS capacity on average by 70% this year (see figure). At the same time, Fortune 1000 companies expect their SAN capacity to grow 51% on average this year.

These conclusions are sharply different from those reported in TheInfoPro study conducted two years ago, when many of the interviewees tended to have small NAS configurations and often indicated that NAS was dedicated to a single application—meaning NAS was more of a niche technology.

"NAS is getting more momentum," says Ken Male, founder and CEO of TheInfoPro. "People are finding it has a lot of uses. It's helping to enable better backups, and it's helping with things like snapshots and point-in-time copying. NAS is getting really entrenched in the enterprise."

For instance, users are finding that NAS gateways are particularly useful in heterogeneous environments. By putting a gateway device in front of a SAN, IT managers can put functions such as replication and volume management on the NAS head. With these functions on the front-end, users have a clean way of enabling high-end functions on the back-end without getting entangled in interoperability issues.

According to Male, "In some ways, this could be an alternative to intelligent switches."

The survey found that Fortune 1000 users have, on average, 138TB and 22TB of SAN and NAS capacity, respectively. As expected, the numbers are different for users in the small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) market. SME respondents reported an average of 4TB on NAS and 91TB on SANs. Furthermore, the survey shows that NAS capacity at SMEs will grow 102% on average, while SAN capacity will grow 43% on average in the SME market. TheInfoPro characterizes SMEs as companies with revenues between $600 million and $1 billion.

"We could not find a lot of small shops that have made the move to networked storage," Male says. "A lot of them are still on DAS [direct-attached storage]."

In vertical markets, SAN growth will be particularly strong in the financial services sector. NAS growth, however, will be strongest in the energy and utilities industries over the next two years. Two of the chief reasons for the increase in NAS popularity can be attributed to its ease of use and the ability to consolidate file servers.

TheInfoPro survey is an exhaustive research report that surveyed end users in financial services, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and technology industries. Of the 250 respondents, 150 are in the Fortune 1000 category. The rest are mid-market companies based primarily in the US, with a small European sampling.

The report focuses on storage networking and storage management and includes issues such as end users' pain points, emerging technologies, and spending plans over the next one to two years. About one-third of those surveyed spend between $1 million to $3 million on storage annually.

One key point in the survey's findings focused on what applications users expect to drive storage capacity growth over the next two years. About 48% of the survey respondents cited databases as the primary applications driving storage growth, while new regulations drew a 24% response as the second-highest growth driver. Interestingly, e-mail was cited as the primary driver by only 10% of the respondents, and only 6% of the companies cited backup as a primary driver.

"While both fixed content and e-mail retention are cited as rapidly growing storage capacity drivers, they are incremental to users' existing solutions, [and] utility computing rarely was mentioned as a growth driver," according to the report.

According to TheInfoPro end-user survey, Serial ATA disk drives top the list of technologies that will be implemented over the short term (through mid-2005).
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Overall, the top growth drivers for this year are disaster recovery, government regulations, and consolidation. Consolidation of storage systems on a common platform was cited as the biggest spending driver. Enterprises are buying new SAN capacity from their preferred vendor to handle data moved off other platforms, according to the report. Moreover, companies of all sizes said that regulations such as HIPAA are forcing new data-retention systems and procedures and are driving storage spending.

Government data retention and access control regulations also were cited as growth and spending drivers for the next two years. As for consolidation, most of that is occurring as users move from DAS to SANs and pare down their server counts. TheInfoPro's Male anticipates that trend will continue in the Fortune 1000 companies over the next two to three years.

About 45% of the respondents noted that pain points are technology related, while budgets came in second with a 27% response. Audits and compliance ranked third with a 26% response.

In last year's report, many of TheInfoPro's survey respondents said that poor management tools were a major pain point. But in this year's survey, users honed in on specific technology problems.

Male said he found an interesting side note in what was driving storage growth. More CIOs are issuing internal requirements with the following mandate: When an application reaches a certain capacity size, it must be incorporated into the SAN. For example, some pharmaceutical companies require that an application that reaches more than 100GB be on the SAN, while some financial firms dictate any application over 150GB must be on the SAN.

"Many of the executives are saying, 'Hey, we made this SAN investment, let's make sure we use it,' " says Male. "It's a small sample but it is coming from what I consider to be leading-edge users of SANs."

TheInfoPro survey also queried storage professionals about their existing use of a wide variety of technologies, as well as their short-term and long-term implementation plans (see figure).

This article was originally published on July 01, 2004