Green light for disk spending

The results from our semiannual Purchasing Intentions Survey are in. Storage managers are investing more in disk, but budgets for networked hardware are decreasing. The technology least likely to be invested in? Storage management software.

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About this survey:
Our survey was conducted in February and March 2004 by e-mail. Results are based on answers from 635 respondents, all of whom had specific purchasing authority for disk subsystems, network hardware, backup hardware or software or storage management software. Respondents represented a cross-section of industries, with financial services, manufacturing, government, education and the computer industry comprising the largest segments.
Storage managers say they are going to spend 4% more in 2004 than they spent last year, but a lot of the boost will go toward disk--adding capacity to the arrays they already own--rather than adding raw capacity. Tape spending is beginning to decline and disk backup is starting to take off. Networks continue to evolve, but switch purchases are getting less of the budget. And storage managers are hesitant to invest in storage management software.

That's according to the 635 respondents of Storage's March 2004 Purchasing Intentions Survey (see "About this survey"). The average spending boost will only be 4%, but 63% are increasing their spending in 2004, with half of them increasing by more than 10%.

Planned increases of disk capacity will go up from 13TB a year ago to 20TB, consuming 41% of storage budgets, up 9% from 18 months ago.

Despite all the talk about low staffing levels, budgeting for staff and services remains steady (see "Spending priorities have changed"). Media budgets continue at approximately 12% of overall spending.

Surprisingly, storage managers don't anticipate balancing disk spending with storage management software spending. Only 39% planned to increase spending on storage management software, despite increasing their spending on other storage hardware and software. While only 3% were cutting, a whopping 43% were holding level.

What's going on?
According to many of the nearly 100 respondents we followed up with, budgets are still tight, even when they're increasing. Some users are voting with their wallets that storage management software is either too expensive, not good enough or not compelling. Others are merely controlling costs through consolidation and bundling.

For some users, new hardware comes with storage management software. Whatever the real cost, their perception (or what they tell management) is that it's free or cheap.

"It is more difficult to spend money on storage management software than on hardware," says a storage manager at a large Canadian insurer. He adds: "Big storage vendors have basic storage management software coming with their hardware, although it might not be the best."

For others, storage consolidation has allowed many shops to defer storage management software purchases. Fewer devices require fewer software licenses, depending, of course, on the licensing scheme.

"As we have downsized," says a respondent at a leasing company, "the volume of information we have been generating has also decreased, making the management of it easier without resorting to additional tools which make management easier, but are not entirely necessary."

That sentiment--nice to have, but not necessary--is expressed more forcefully by another respondent: "[Our] budget is too tight, and [we're] taking a step back from implementing more tools that don't seem to deliver what's promised."

Users' No. 1 software priority is storage resource management (SRM), followed by performance management and operational monitoring (see "What users want in management software"). Contrast that with their three lowest-rated functions: compliance, information life cycle management (ILM) and provisioning. This is in direct contrast with the software most hyped by vendors in the last half year.

Bottom line on 2004 spending
Storage managers say, on average, that in 2004 they will:
  • Spend $1.8 million on storage
  • Buy 20TB of disk
  • Add six more storage switches to the 11 they already have
  • Boost the number of SAN fabrics from 2.3 to 2.6
  • Purchase 10 individual tape drives, three tape autoloaders and four tape libraries (with 136 slots each)

Infrastructure keeps evolving
The second surprising area of frugality is network hardware, where the picture seems paradoxical. Despite network hardware dropping to only 9% of the overall budget, respondents continue to develop their infrastructure. But for many, the initial (costly) push into a storage area network (SAN) is past history: SAN growth was cited by 41% of survey participants as their primary reason for buying new switches.

Storage groups will deploy more fabrics; respondents cited growth from a current average of 2.3 fabrics to 2.6 by the end of 2004. Most users will go from two or three fabrics to three or four this year. The mix of large and small switches they'll use has changed, too: While small switches continue to predominate, a significant number of users are deploying switches with more than 128 ports (see "Switch sizes growing").

That probably corresponds to a shift in the way users are architecting their storage networks (see "More complex fabrics on the way"). While SAN islands are still the largest group, two-thirds of respondents now cite director-based and core/edge fabrics. Respondents aren't necessarily looking beyond switch architecture to structure their fabrics, however. Only 7% are implementing virtual SANs, and 57% have no plans or are definitely not implementing them.

If SANs are beginning to develop some structure, they're also going to become more diverse. An astonishing 38% of respondents say they will deploy iSCSI SANs in 2004 (see "Most shops will deploy IP storage"), and nearly a quarter say they will deploy FCIP.

Convergence with network-attached storage (NAS) continues as well, with 27% saying they will implement or have implemented SAN/NAS gateways, with another 35% evaluating them. While SAN/NAS gateways are gaining in popularity, they remain far less popular than direct-attached storage (DAS), NAS (particularly consolidated NAS) or even virtualized pools for storing files.

Given the low budget for network infrastructure, storage managers seem to be betting on lower prices, using older switches that they currently own as edge devices to push the SAN outward and are using IP storage to expand their storage environment.

New backup technologies
The interest in IP storage indicates a willingness to selectively invest in new technologies. Besides iSCSI, the most notable new technology is disk-to-disk (D2D) backup, which appears to be getting serious investment for the first time. More than half of respondents are increasing spending on D2D, with only 28% spending nothing or decreasing (see "Disk-based backup taking off").

Predictably, the favored route for deploying D2D at this stage is first going to disk and then backing up to tape. The second most popular scenario is backing up to disk and then archiving to tape. More advanced approaches, such as content-addressable storage (CAS) or single-instance file storage, are getting only limited attention (see "Least disruptive disk backup technologies are most popular").

While tape library purchasing appears strong, and disk-to-disk plans include significant use of tape at the end of the line, disaster recovery (DR) will increasingly rely on newer technologies (see "DR not just about tape"). In the last year, remote copy/replication has surpassed off-site tape storage as the primary DR expenditure listed by respondents, and the most recent results confirm that.

DR spending continues to rise. In October 2003, 33% of respondents were increasing their DR spending (see "Surviving and thriving: facing recession and growth"). But in March 2004, that rose to 50%, with another 37% holding the line.

Spending will be up, as well, on compliance in 38% of shops, with 45% holding firm at last year's level. Spending patterns have changed very little for compliance, with tape archiving being the majority approach, followed by disk-to-disk backup (see "Tape most popular compliance tool"). The only technology that seems to be losing favor for compliance is optical write once, ready many (WORM), which dropped from 15% to 10%.

This coming year looks to be a busy one. While many storage managers will be glad to have the budget to buy needed capacity, they probably would have been just as glad to be able to mate those purchases with mature, effective management tools. With SANs spreading into new parts of the enterprise and becoming multiprotocol, still-strapped staffs will have to run even faster to keep up. Buckle up--it's going to be a fast and bumpy ride in 2004.

This was first published in May 2004

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