Survey shows interest in NAS virtualization

By Farid Neema and Tom Coughlin

—A recent end-user survey conducted by Peripheral Concepts and Coughlin Associates, 2005 NAS and NAS Virtualization Report, targeted IT organizations with at least one NAS system and a minimum of 1TB of raw disk storage. More than 2,000 qualified respondents answered a screening survey, and a selected population of 135 IT administrators and managers answered the full survey.

The 2,111 IT sites totaled 679 petabytes of disk storage and 4,690 NAS systems. About two-thirds of the sites had more than 25TB of total disk capacity, which compares to 50% in our 2004 survey and 40% in our 2003 survey.

Sites with more than 10 NAS systems represented about 25% of the survey population, compared to 20% in our 2004 survey and 15% in our 2003 survey. And about 33% of the population had more than one-third of its disk capacity in NAS configurations, compared to 25% in 2004 and 16% in 2003. All of these statistics point to rapid growth in the NAS market.

Management challenges
Data protection and coping with growing storage capacity are at the top of IT managers' storage management challenges. More than half of the surveyed sites suffer from performance bottlenecks, reflecting the increased complexity of NAS environments and the need for additional management tools.

As a key enabler of storage consolidation, NAS virtualization has emerged in only a few years from the research stage to being a key feature for large NAS installations. NAS virtualization products create a single logical view across the file systems of multiple NAS systems and are able to non-disruptively migrate data from one system to another. This is essential for efficient capacity utilization and sustained performance.

By creating a single logical view across multiple NAS systems, virtualization addresses the scalability, performance, and management problems that plague large NAS environments today. Distributed file systems, which enable NAS virtualization, represent one of the major storage technology advances of the past five years. Our NAS survey shows significant end-user interest in virtualization and an increased awareness of the benefits.

About 16% of the 2,111 surveyed sites and 42% of the selected population use some kind of NAS virtualization today, and another 13% of the companies in the selected population will implement virtualization in 2006.

Users cite improved performance as the major benefit of NAS virtualization, while scalability and ease of deployment are at the top of the selection criteria when acquiring a virtualization product.

More than 73% of the survey participants want to leverage existing backup-and-recovery procedures in NAS virtualization environments, and 69% want a NAS virtualization solution that does not require remounting of clients.

NAS growth has outpaced predictions. However, managing many discrete file systems—dealing with additions, changes, and data migration—has proven to be a difficult task, which will lead to increased adoption of NAS virtualization in 2006

For more information on the 2005 NAS and NAS Virtualization Report, visit the Peripheral Concepts or Coughlin Associates Websites at www.periconcepts.com or www.tomcoughlin.com

Farid Neema is president and senior analyst of Peripheral Concepts, and Tom Coughlin is president of Coughlin Associates.

This article was originally published on November 29, 2005