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Networked storage rules, SANs are king
Perhaps most significantly, SANs are beginning to become the preferred storage for newer applications. When asked what would be the primary storage medium for new apps in 2003, 49% said SANs. Yet despite the growing interest in networked storage, 31% answered that DAS would be their primary medium, indicating that legacy technology is still important.

The SAN/DAS dichotomy may reflect the scenario that Robbie Bailey, Intel's manager of server hardware, finds himself in: "What we've already deployed is aging and we're at a critical point that we need to acquire new servers or move on to emerging technologies like NAS or SAN."

If IT shops are signaling they want to buy more storage, they are less clear about how big a role price will play in their decisions. Both survey and anecdotal evidence suggests that storage managers are driving very hard bargains.

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Steve Beatty, a storage architect for a large consumer packaged goods company, typifies the new breed of storage buyer. In the past, his company bought from the same large well-known companies for all of its storage needs.

Today, he's taking bids from a variety of companies before he makes a purchase - even companies he has a relationship with and that are already well ensconced in the data center. "We have all of the major vendors in and sign with whoever offers us what we need at the lowest price," says Beatty. Another buyer sums competition up well: "We might bring in NetApp just to get a better deal with EMC." His attitude, like thousands of others, are contributing to the current price war environment that we see today.

Still, there are limits to playing the price game, says Beatty, who's reticent about looking at unproven vendors. Beatty says he'll only consider vendors with a proven track record. "Until a company can prove to me that it's likely to be around next year I'm not buying. I've dealt with too many orphans in the past."

Respondents tended to downplay price as a factor. For disk arrays, for example, only 32% cited price as their most important criteria, behind "strategic technology vendor for my company" (57%), product characteristics (51%) and technical support and service (33%). Price did rise to 49% as the most important secondary characteristic, behind technical support (56%).

The strong attachment to strategic vendors by some is expressed by Michelle Martin, a storage resource analyst for Acxiom, a customer management provider in Little Rock, AR. She says, "We're pretty set on storage for next year but when we do need new equipment we have the same two or three vendors that we stick with."

That corresponds to our respondents, who averaged 2.6 as the maximum number of disk array vendors they would buy from.

SAN construction is driving switch purchase decisions, as well. While 44% of respondents bought no switches this year, only 30% will buy none next year. Storage managers are mostly buying one to 10 switches (57%) next year, with most (55%) deploying Fibre Channel (FC) fabric as their primary protocol. The second most popular protocol, surprisingly, is iSCSI (15%). Legacy protocols like Fibre Channel-Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) and FICON are no longer primary protocols among our respondents.

This was first published in August 2002

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