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Network consolidation slows
Another indicator that growing data stores may affect overall storage spending is the shift away from director-based networks (see "Director-based networks dip"). Last fall, when asked to describe their networking environments, more respondents indicated that their network architectures were built around director-class switches rather than smaller switches used in SAN islands. But in the latest survey, "island" architectures are becoming more prevalent once again.
While the gap between these two architectures is still small, the shift from director-based architectures represents a swing of 6%--previously, 35% of respondents had director-based storage networks vs. 32% with islands of smaller switches. But in the most recent survey, these numbers have essentially reversed, with 31% of respondents indicating directors and 34% noting their use of small-switch islands. Storage capacity growth is the most likely culprit at the root of this change; with so much storage being added to existing environments, consolidation projects are bound to be relegated to the back burner as storage managers cope with accommodating added disk capacity. Thus, network consolidation using director-class switches is delayed--at least temporarily--while additional ports in the form of smaller switches are used for the new capacity.
Perhaps underscoring that companies have back-burnered network consolidation for now, the number of SAN fabrics reported by respondents grew to an overall average of 3.3. All business sizes reported an increase and indicated that these numbers would grow across the board, with an anticipated average of 3.7 SAN fabrics by the end of the year.
A downturn in the use of directors after a couple of years of relatively steady growth may not be sufficient evidence to consider it a significant indicator at this point or to predict rough sledding for director vendors, but it bears watching. It's also important to note that at large businesses (those with revenue of $1 billion or more), directors continue to gain favor.
Asked to name their primary switch vendor for 2006, 37% picked Cisco Systems Inc., enabling Cisco to surpass Brocade Communications Systems Inc. for the first time (see "Switch at the top for switch vendors") and by a margin of five percentage points. Last fall, Cisco and Brocade each garnered 31% shares.
This was first published in June 2006