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Special Supplement: Small office SANs

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Storage August 2006 Special Supplement

Cost and skill hurdles
Depending on whom you ask, the SMB category ranges from any company not in the Fortune 1000 to mom-and-pop operations. A Harvard Business School program intended specifically for executives at small-sized businesses sets an annual revenue of $3 million as the minimum eligibility size.

A recent survey by the Boston-based Yankee Group gives some reasons why SMBs struggle with SANs:

  • Fifty percent of respondents have less than 5TB of storage.
  • Forty-six percent employ three or fewer IT people.
  • Sixty percent budget less than $50,000 for storage, and 59% spend no more than $10,000/TB.
"You can now get what amounts to a small, 250GB SAN from vendors like Netgear and others for $400," says Karp. Running Ethernet and mirrored SATA drives while using only a router to connect multiple hosts is admittedly "a lightweight approach," he adds. However, he's talked with vendors planning more powerful low-end systems that use larger disk drives and incorporate a switch rather than a router.

Those Yankee Group survey respondents willing to spend $10,000 can get quite a bit more. "Today, $10,000 buys 1TB of disk, a couple of HBAs [host bus adapters] and a switch," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO in Stillwater, MN. "And I'm not just talking about little-known vendors--even EMC sells 1TB of storage

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for that money."

With a storage budget approaching $20,000, an SMB can get a fairly sophisticated FC SAN. "In shopping around, I've seen FC SANs populated with disk drives [that cost] $12,000 to $15,000," says Mike Magaldi, director of technology at St. Mary's and All Angels School in Aliso Viejo, CA. He checked out one FC SAN offering for $9,999, but it didn't come with disks. For $20,000, Magaldi has found a choice of FC SANs that includes sufficient disk and management capabilities, including backup software. The school currently operates an FC SAN built on Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co.'s StorageWorks MSA1000 array. With the help of wizards included in the HP storage, Magaldi set up the FC SAN and backup system. "Wizards helped a lot. I had no idea about LUNs," he admits.

One thing that doesn't come with a low-priced SAN is the help of a skilled storage integrator. "We don't work with companies at the small end of the SMB market. The problem is designing the FC infrastructure," says one storage integrator who doesn't want to get calls from small companies. He recommends considering iSCSI for the SAN because it eliminates the problem of building an FC infrastructure and acquiring FC skills.

This was first published in August 2006

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