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Hot technologies for 2011

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5. Multiprotocol storage arrays

Multiprotocol storage arrays have been around for quite some time, but this class of storage system has whipped up renewed interest among users who are keen on taking advantage of the technology because of its flexibility and cost effectiveness. The multiprotocol approach lets users consolidate storage systems as they seek new efficiencies in the face of spiraling storage capacity requirements.

Research from the Enterprise Strategy Group has revealed that multiprotocol storage adoption is growing. Of the more than 300 respondents to an ESG survey, almost 50% are planning a deployment, while nearly 25% have already deployed multiprotocol storage. Similar research done by ESG in 2008 showed that only 18% of those surveyed had gone the multiprotocol route.

Vendors such as EMC and NetApp prominently feature multiprotocol storage in their product lines. And according to Terri McClure, a senior analyst at ESG, multiprotocol storage is more of a "checkbox" item than an exotic option these days. "It's becoming more and more of an expectation, mostly driven by NetApp's push for unified storage," McClure said. "And when you look at where NetApp's headed and where EMC talks about going with their Clariion platform, I think users are planning their storage requirements holistically

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rather than [saying] 'I need x for block and x for file, and I'll pay a significant penalty if I guess wrong.'"

Although multiprotocol storage has the potential to simplify a data storage environment of any size, smaller businesses may be more attracted to this technology than larger environments that often have well-established (and distinct) block and file storage infrastructures. "Instead of going out to buy a block device or a NAS device, [SMBs] can buy one storage system that gives them that capability," StorageIO Group's Schulz said. "And with these systems coming down in price and increasing in functionality that, in turn, is aligning with the smaller environments and growing with their needs."

Elvis Cernjul, vice president of IT at fashion retailer Spiegel, currently uses unified storage to consolidate eight different devices. Along with not having to deal with managing these systems, Cernjul said he has "more storage space and triple redundancy on his data."

Kevin Fitzpatrick, IT director at San Diego-based ROEL Construction Co., doesn't use multiprotocol storage in his environment, but he's interested in it. His cloud storage provider decided to switch to a unified storage system from NetApp, and since that change he has "seen some great improvements in storage functionality." Impressed by those performance results, Fitzpatrick said he will consider a multiprotocol storage system when he needs to upgrade his storage capacity.

Multiprotocol storage is definitely a hot technology, but you'll still have to gauge just how much sizzle your company can expect. "If it makes sense . . . or allows you to leverage your dollars more effectively, absolutely take a look at it," StorageIO Group's Schulz said. "But first and foremost, make sure it can do something for your business. In other words, let the technology work for you instead of you having to work for the technology."

This was first published in December 2010

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