Users shift storage purchasing priorities

By Kevin Komiega

According to a recent end-user survey by TheInfoPro (TIP) research firm, continued business growth is causing end users to tweak their storage buying plans to include more e-mail management and archiving software, capacity planning and forecasting tools, and technologies such as wide area file services (WAFS). In addition, companies are adding more personnel to improve performance and service levels within their IT organizations.

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TheInfoPro conducted two surveys: storage networking and storage management, and it’s important to note that the 250 storage professionals surveyed were primarily from Fortune 1000 firms.

In terms of end users’ near-term (within six months) purchasing plans for storage networking technologies, 4Gbps Fibre Channel topped the list, followed by virtual tape libraries (VTLs), IP-based SAN extension/replication appliances, and WAFS software and appliances (see figure above).

As for storage management technologies, users are focused on data encryption software, information lifecycle management (ILM), online data migration/mobility software, and e-mail management and archiving software.

Just six months ago, TIP reported that ILM was the hottest item on buyers’ storage management shopping lists (at least among Fortune 1000 firms), but there appear to be minor shifts in buying plans. For example, data encryption software (not necessarily encryption appliances) edged out ILM in the most recent survey, and e-mail management and archiving software rose sharply compared to previous surveys.

It’s also interesting to note that data classification/indexing/categorization software, which is generally regarded as part of an ILM strategy, made the top-five technologies in users’ near-term purchasing plans for storage management products. (For more information, see Data classification is the icing on the ILM cake,” InfoStor Special Report, May 2006, p. 1.)

One of the more surprising results of TIP’s storage networking survey was users’ high ranking of WAFS in their near-term purchasing plans. (WAFS is sometimes referred to as wide area data services, or WADS, and often includes WAN optimization technology.) According to Robert Stevenson, TheInfoPro’s managing director of storage, WAFS could be having an effect on the overall backup software market.

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“There have been a lot of interesting changes in backup,” says Stevenson. “For example, for the first time we’re seeing a reduction in spending on backup software.”

Part of the dip in backup software spending can be attributed to the advent of WAFS technology as an emerging option for remote office backups. WAFS provides a number of potential benefits, according to users (see figure, below).

Stevenson says there has been a spike in users’ interest in WAFS as the big vendors get involved in the market. “WAFS technology with de-duplication capabilities is going to eat into remote office backup,” says Stevenson. “Users are realizing they can do backups using different means.”

The importance of WAFS, and WAN optimization, is also reflected in recent acquisitions, such as Packeteer buying Tacit Networks (see p. 14) and Expand Networks scooping up DiskSites.

When TheInfoPro asked users which vendors they use, or will use, for WAFS, Riverbed ranked first followed by Cisco.

Pain points

Among the biggest pain points facing storage administrators, managing storage growth again topped the list, this time followed closely by challenges associated with capacity forecasting and storage reporting, as well as backup administration and management.

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Performance is also becoming a challenge as storage administrators try to lower costs by sizing capacity requirements up-front and considering throughput requirements as an afterthought. Combine this problem with other pain points such as managing storage growth and backup management and you get a 10% jump in the purchase of capacity and forecast reporting tools, according to TIP.

A predicted drop in storage spending could also compound the aforementioned problems as storage professionals start tightening the purse strings.

“We are seeing a contraction in storage spending because many people feel that they over-purchased in 2005,” Stevenson says.

In fact, there has been a 10% increase in those that say they will be spending less on storage in the near term, according to TIP’s latest round of interviews. Stevenson says organizations are shifting dollars to the operational side of the house rather than throwing more money at hardware and software, thereby staffing up on personnel to manage their existing infrastructures. “They are pulling back on some of the larger purchases to focus on what they already have,” Stevenson explains.

But overall storage budgets continue to be dominated by technology purchases, despite the rise in hiring. For example, hardware accounts for 56% of storage budgets on average, while software represents a 23% slice, and staffing and services account for 14% and 7%, respectively (see figure, above).

As for storage architectures, Fibre Channel SANs will account for 70% of the server-attach rates this year, while direct-attached storage (DAS) and NAS will each account for about 14% of the market, followed by IP SANs at only 2%.

This article was originally published on June 01, 2006