Storage spending report

Storage magazine's exclusive semiannual Purchasing Intentions Survey shows budgets slowly climbing, a move toward tiering and an increased focus on using disk for backup.

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Strategic vendor choices shifting
Storage managers responding to our survey have been relatively stable in their choice of strategic vendors for backup hardware, as well as backup and storage management software, since 2002. But in disk and switch hardware, users have had shifting allegiances in who they list as their primary vendors. We've generally interpreted that designation as a measure of mindshare and strategic importance, not market share.

In switches, Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s failure in 2003 to present a convincing roadmap and stream of new products opened the door wide, and Cisco Systems Inc. has clearly stepped into it. Cisco's mindshare is way out of proportion to its market share, although reports from analyst firms such as IDC have generally shown that to be growing, too. McData Corp., meanwhile, continues to enjoy the growing popularity of directors.

In disk storage, the story is a bit different. After its troubles in 2002 and 2003, EMC Corp. has clearly emerged as the leader. Hewlett-Packard Co. fell and Hitachi Data Systems Inc. gained ground (probably from its TagmaStore introduction); IBM Corp., however, didn't receive a boost from its recent introductions of new arrays. Also interestingly, the Dell/EMC connection seems to have lost its upward pull on Dell's mindshare. Network Appliance Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have seen stability and a slight upward growth. The bottom line: EMC has returned to a dominant position in disk, while Brocade has lost its hold on a switch market that's clearly changing.

 

This is shaping up to be an evolutionary year for storage shops, with the recent trend toward tiered storage and disk-based backup continuing full steam ahead. Spending increases for storage have returned to more moderate levels compared to previous years, and influences such as regulatory compliance and information lifecycle management are still far from mandates. Instead, storage managers are focusing on building out their fabrics, rather than on large-scale expansions or aggregations of their storage networks.

That's what 571 storage managers indicated in their responses to Storage's March 2005 Purchasing Intentions Survey (see About this survey). Average budget growth was 2.3%, down from surveys conducted in March 2004 (4%) and August 2004 (2.6%). Upon closer inspection, the downward shift is largely due to the shrinking number of respondents who are increasing their spending in the 5% to 10% range; the relative numbers of people who are either spending much more or decreasing spending have otherwise not changed much (see Spending still on the rise).

More qualitatively, budget cutters disproportionately tended to be midsized companies from a cross-section of industries. They had small storage budgets to start, and are cutting back on disk and switch purchases. Storage managers in larger firms continue to defy predictions that disk growth will slow down, spending 41% of their budgets on disk hardware to buy an average of 23TB this year.

Prior Purchasing Intentions Surveys have often revealed dramatic shifts in the way storage managers are building and deploying storage networks. This survey confirms those recent trends, such as a shift toward disk-based backup and midrange primary storage. But it shows a definite tilt toward building out existing storage networks in certain ways, and much less new fabric construction than in the past.

Stretching the fabric
Our respondents have an average of 10.4 storage switches and 2.4 fabrics (see Users adding to existing fabrics). Although they plan to buy an average of six additional switches this year, they expect to increase the number of fabrics only marginally to 2.6. This reflects the predominance of small switch purchases, with 72% of respondents' purchases planned for switches with 32 or fewer ports.

That picture is further buttressed by respondents' reasons for buying switches. Only 16% were buying to create their first SAN, compared to 22% a year ago. This contrasts with the 42% of storage managers in our survey who are buying switches to add devices to existing SANs.

This tendency to build out existing fabrics is accompanied by a desire to structure fabrics better. Buying small switches doesn't mean building lots of islands--quite the opposite. While 34% say their fabrics are currently built around islands of small switches, only 26% say that's where they'll be at the end of 2005. In contrast, nearly a third (32%) of respondents describe their current architecture as director-based, but this should rise to 35% by year's end. The next most popular architecture is core/edge (14%), which should increase to 18% by year's end.

The trend chronicled in the last few surveys to explore iSCSI has picked up more steam (See iSCSI deployments increasing). In our August 2004 Purchasing Intentions Survey, nearly 18% of those surveyed said they would deploy iSCSI, a figure that rose to 27% in this survey. That iSCSI complements, not replaces, current Fibre Channel (FC) networks is evident from what respondents say they'll use it for. Roughly half will put end-user storage, backup or non-mission-critical applications on iSCSI SANs. Approximately a third will use iSCSI to connect through a local gateway to an FC SAN. Other new technology investments will also contribute to making storage networks more versatile, such as utility computing, wide-area replication and shared file system services (see New technologies extend networks, this page).

 

New technologies extend networks
With SANs now central to large-scale information management in midsized and larger companies, it appears that storage managers are actively evaluating ways to extend and protect those assets. Three newer technologies getting a lot of initial deployment and evaluation--SAN/NAS gateways, continuous data protection and wide-area replication--fit that pattern.

Other technologies that at least half of our survey respondents are either implementing or evaluating include shared/global file systems, utility storage and SAN routing, with change management software for storage at 49%. Many of these approaches also contribute to the general build out of storage networks.

Technologies that still aren't getting much of a nod include automatic provisioning, write once, read many (WORM) disk or tape, and chargeback.

Compliance sorts itself out
Storage vendors have been hoping that regulatory compliance would spark a return to the buy-crazy days of the Internet boom. That's not happening, but storage managers are starting to sort out where they need to be relative to compliance regulations (see Compliance plans take shape). The number of respondent organizations increasing compliance spending climbed to an all-time high of 41%, up from 36% in the August 2004 Purchasing Intentions Survey (but up only slightly from the 39% cited in the March 2004 Purchasing Intentions Survey). Conversely, those not spending at all on compliance went through a similar shift, from 19% in March 2004 to 18% in August 2004 to 22% in March 2005. Both sets of increases are right around the margin of statistical significance, so these results bear watching and future confirmation.

Looked at another way, spending on compliance is being influenced by changes in the way storage managers conduct their backup and archival processes. Although respondents cited tape as the preferred medium for compliance-related archives (53%), that's down slightly from a year ago, while both conventional disk-based architectures and disk-based write once, read many (WORM) have risen slightly.

 

Spending still on the rise

 

Users adding to existing fabrics

iSCSI deployments increasing

Compliance plans take shape

 

Protecting data differently
The creep toward using disk for compliance is seemingly an echo of the very clear message respondents sent about disk and backup (see Disk-based backup growth continues). With 54% of those surveyed increasing their disk-to-disk (D2D) backup and 24% maintaining D2D backup purchases, the approach is clearly becoming mainstream. Backup to disk and then to tape continues to be respondents' favored approach (48%), with backup to disk and archive to tape and file system backup also popular. Despite many products and hype, virtual tape and WORM disk continue to be the least-favored approaches (12% and 7%, respectively), except for single-instance storage (2%), which is the newest and least productized approach.

The fact that two-stage disk/tape approaches are dominating users' deployments is also reflected in respondents' choice of vendors for disk-based backup. The two most common respondent choices were "Don't have one" and "Other" (40% and 20%, respectively), vs. EMC Corp.'s 17% (the top vendor mention) and single digits for every other vendor. Clearly, users are still looking for vendors to step up to the plate in this category.

Other signs point to more change within the data protection environment. For example, 21% of respondents say they've implemented some form of continuous data protection, with another 10% indicating they'll implement it, and 41% evaluating or planning to evaluate products in that category (see New technologies extend networks).

The combination of disk and storage networking is also widening the focus of data protection from a local to a wide-area activity. For the first time, remote replication has outstripped offsite tape storage as the primary focus of disaster recovery (DR) spending (46% to 44%). While many respondents (38%) indicate that they won't spend anything on remote mirroring in 2005, 43% are increasing their spending on the technology vs. 33% who are increasing spending on offsite tape. While tape may still be the main medium for DR activities, remote mirroring and other disk-based techniques are definitely gaining ground.

Disk-based backup growth continues

Storage management software purchase plans

 

Turmoil in management software
Past surveys have shown lackluster interest in purchasing storage management software and this edition continues that trend. Only 40% of those surveyed will increase their storage management software spending, while 14% have no plans to buy (see Storage management software purchase plans, this page). Storage managers continue to ask for the same things--software to increase staff productivity, specifically to manage resources, operations and performance.

What has gradually emerged in the last year is that the tie between hardware and software is growing stronger. In the March 2004 Purchasing Intentions Survey, 29% of respondents listed "Features/functions" as their main reason for choosing their primary storage management software vendor, compared to 21% for "Key supplier of hardware to my company" and 14% for "Key supplier of software to my company." Those numbers shifted in favor of hardware vendors in the August 2004 Purchasing Intentions Survey and continued in that direction this past March, with the hardware tie-in getting 24% and features/functions remaining the same (29%). The tie in with software vendors stayed at 14%.

This past year, hardware vendors EMC, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. all showed modest increases in their ranking as primary storage management software vendors. Computer Associates (CA) International Inc. and Veritas Software Corp., on the other hand, declined slightly. With respondents consistently listing "Simplify management of different storage environments" as a strong and growing factor driving their software purchases, this would seem paradoxical, as hardware vendors have come no closer than claims to true multivendor management.

But users probably haven't settled into this pattern of buying management software from their hardware vendors for the long haul, as "Other" (which has hovered around 12% in recent years) has been the fourth most-popular storage software vendor in our survey. Perhaps more telling is that while 11% of respondents in our March 2005 Purchasing Intentions Survey listed "Other" as their primary vendor in 2004, an amazing 17% listed "Other" as their prospective primary vendor for 2005. If users follow through with their plans, this would boost "Other" to third place, just behind Veritas.

One factor that may well change how users see and deploy storage management software is virtualization. With the technology getting a second breath of life and a big push from all major disk vendors, storage managers indicate a much greater willingness to invest in it than ever before. While historically only 20% to 25% of respondents have shown an intent to purchase virtualization in one form or another, that figure jumped to 37% in this edition of the survey. All forms of virtualization technology grew, with host- and array-based software continuing to hold the lead.

About this survey: Our survey was conducted in March 2005 by e-mail. Results are based on answers from 571 respondents, all of whom had specific purchasing authority for the product categories they were queried on.

This was first published in June 2005

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