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SANS dominate, but no clear choice for files

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Since Storage began doing this survey in August 2002, each one has shown the clear dominance of networked storage, and this edition was no exception. For example, 76% of respondents have at least one storage switch installed. Networked storage will account for more than half of purchase dollars at 83% of shops surveyed, the highest percentage so far. While direct-attached storage (DAS) has a huge legacy presence, its dim future--particularly in the data center--is nowhere easier to see than in the fact that fewer respondents cite DAS as their primary storage expenditure for 2004 (10%) than list replacement hard drives (16%). (See Figure 3)

With so many storage managers taking the storage area network (SAN) route, and with databases driving that, where does this leave files, which after all consume a lot of disk and are vital to any business? Respondents are pursuing many approaches to file storage, but consolidated network-attached storage (NAS) was the most popular answer (see Figure 4). Significant numbers of people are also using newer approaches--such as NAS/SAN hybrid devices and virtualized pools of storage--for files.

And while storage managers are weaning themselves from a raw disk diet, they aren't exactly fasting. On average, respondents plan to add about 15TB of disk next year, with 27% adding more than 10TB. Similar to past surveys, 55% of respondents cited databases as main consumers of their storage.

Most SANs are an island
Those kind of capacity additions will be accompanied by more switch ports, although the networking picture is more complex than the storage scene.

Most respondents have moderate numbers of switches (an average of 9) with small numbers of ports (most have 16 or fewer), and will continue building out SANs in that way. However, a small group of users have very large SANs and/or large numbers of ports: 13% of switch purchases will be for switches with more than 64 ports.

With consolidation as the primary driver behind SAN deployments, how will users architect their SANs? Our respondents presented a varied picture (see Figure 5). Currently, 39% describe their architectures as "primarily islands of small switches," with only 19% calling their nets "a single fabric of large core switches with smaller edge switches" and 19% relying on large director-class switches.

SAN architectures moving slowly away from islands

In 2004, the "islands" group will shrink to 28%, with several other models showing growth as alternatives. But director-class switches appear to be the most popular upgrade path for SANs among our respondents.

But SAN architectures will also be changing in other ways in 2004, according to respondents. While not universal, interest in IP storage is real and will likely be translated into some implementations next year. For example, 31% said they would deploy IP storage switches and 14% of respondents listed iSCSI as the primary protocol they would be deploying next year.

Some of the interest in the Internet Protocol (IP) is undoubtedly linked to wide-area DR plans: 35% of respondents said they would buy Fibre Channel (FC)-to-IP bridges or gateways. But interest in IP on campus is also real: 29% of respondents plan to purchase SCSI-to-iSCSI converters. In both cases, the preponderance of storage managers had modest plans, indicating they would buy fewer than five devices.

This was first published in October 2003

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