Survey reveals users' storage priorities

By Ken Male

TheInfoPro (TIP) is in the process of completing Wave 4 of its bi-annual study of the storage networking and storage management markets based on in-depth interviews with hundreds of Fortune 1000 and mid-market companies in North America, as well as European storage professionals. This article provides a sneak peek at some of the early results of the survey; the final report will be available later this month.

Overall, we continue to see strong movement toward tiered storage. In our Wave 3 survey, Serial ATA (SATA) and Tier 2 SANs were hot; in addition, NAS growth was booming in Fortune 1000 companies. Six months later, we find that almost 40% of our surveyed base has SATA drives installed (see figure). As early adopters get comfortable with the technology, they like what they are seeing in terms of performance and reliability. Previously, SATA drives were used primarily as a staging media before backing up to tape, but we expect to see SATA used more and more as primary storage when we conduct the Wave 5 study in the first quarter of 2005.

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When combined with the increased interest in adopting IP SANs, storage professionals have many options, as well as the ability to not treat all data equally-which is something they have wanted since they first adopted SANs.

Some highlights coming out of the survey include the following:

Technology road maps

Serial ATA, followed by IP SANs, top the charts in TIP's "Technology Heat Index" in the storage networking survey. The Heat Index factors in current and planned use of more than 20 different storage networking technologies and prioritizes them based on end users' near-term spending plans. Rounding out the top five technologies in the Heat Index are archiving hardware/software, asynchronous remote data mirroring, and virtual tape.

In the companion Heat Index for more than 20 storage management technologies, the top five are shaping up to be disk-to-disk backup, information life-cycle management (ILM), capacity utilization, storage resource management (SRM), and e-mail management. The biggest gainer from the Wave 3 to Wave 4 study is by far ILM. Storage professionals are excited by the promise of an "ILM engine," but the key is going to be the timing of viable solutions.

We continue to see the impact of compliance regulations and business continuance, as evidenced by the high scores for archiving, e-mail management, and remote replication. And the pain associated with backing up to tape is the primary reason for the high scores for SATA drives, disk-to-disk backup, and virtual tape.

Software trends

SRM and storage network management continue to gain end-user adoption. However, storage professionals say that the pace of implementation is not as fast as expected. Users noted a number of reasons for this, including lack of scalability in most solutions, the need to install agents on the storage and servers (which often requires the involvement of other-non-storage-IT groups), and over-promising by vendors.

Storage professionals are still planning to implement overarching storage management solutions, but it is taking more time than originally expected. We're witnessing the classic "over-promising and under-delivering " dynamic among vendors. In addition, it's not always easy for users to transition from homegrown tools to vendors' solutions.

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NAS capacity growth, while still strong, is not going at the torrid pace seen in earlier surveys (see "User survey shows fast growth for NAS," InfoStor, July 2004, p. 1). The Fortune 1000 companies we interviewed doubled their NAS capacity over the last year on average; however, looking ahead to 2005 those companies are not anticipating the growth to be as high.

SAN capacity appears to be at approximately the same 50% growth rate that was reported in the last TIP survey, with the trend continuing to be growth in Tier 2 storage. As a baseline, Fortune 1000 companies interviewed in the survey have on average 200TB of SAN capacity and 44TB of NAS capacity. However, it's interesting to note that although capacity is increasing at a significant rate, spending on both SAN and NAS is only moderate due to lower prices and the use of tiered storage.

In questions related to server infrastructures, TIP discovered that 59% of the surveyed companies are in the midst of server consolidation. In addition, 55% of the respondents noted that their IT organizations were making the move to blade servers. In previous surveys the infrastructure costs, notably host bus adapters (HBAs) and switches, had been a gating factor in having more server assets on SANs. Now, with the confluence of tiered storage, server consolidation, and server virtualization, enterprises are in a situation where they can get more servers in a networked storage environment.

To learn more about the TIP surveys and reports, visit www.theinfopro.net.

Ken Male is the CEO and founder of TheInfoPro, in New York.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2004