The big crunch: Capacity grows, budgets shrink


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Caught between higher capacity requirements and lower budgets, storage managers have altered their buying plans. For example, 46% of those planning to buy arrays are considering midrange systems over higher end arrays, the highest percentage we've seen in four years. It may be that buyers are willing to accept somewhat lower performance and eschew some features found only on higher end storage arrays.

A more telling statistic is the overall picture of disk storage expenditures. On average, nearly 40% of storage managers' disk budgets will be used to buy disks to be installed in existing storage arrays. This far outdistances the 24% allotted for new Fibre Channel (FC) arrays, and continues a trend that began last spring (see "Where disk dollars are going," (PDF) below).

"Based on our size, I don't see us having to add another storage array," says Ed Sitz, IT manager in the Kansas City offices of Med James Inc. "If anything, we'll just add storage capacity to it. We have slots available in both of our enclosures for Fibre and SATA drives."

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Where disk dollars are going (PDF).

iSCSI's allure
For years, analysts and storage publications have mused over when the "Year of iSCSI" would occur. To date, there's yet to be a watershed year to mark its arrival; rather, iSCSI's progression has been a gradual climb. We won't go out on a limb and declare that 2008 will be iSCSI's year, but there are a number of signs that indicate accelerating interest.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents have iSCSI storage in their shops, and 40% either have or will deploy it in 2008. In smaller (and ostensibly more cash-strapped firms) the pickup in interest is even greater: 46% of small companies will deploy iSCSI this year vs. 37% a year ago, while 43% of midsized companies plan to go the iSCSI route vs. last spring's 28%.

Med James installed its first SAN last year and opted for iSCSI. The firm's EMC Clariion has a mix of FC and SATA disks totaling approximately 5TB. Cost and ease of deployment compared to an FC array were two key factors that led Med James to select an iSCSI array. "We don't use Fibre switches or HBAs [host bus adapters]--it's all iSCSI," says Sitz.

There's a lot to like about iSCSI, not the least of which is its relative low cost. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed say their top reason for considering iSCSI is its cheaper price over FC storage. Not far behind was the need for low-cost capacity (21%).

But price isn't the only reason why a growing number of companies are looking at iSCSI systems. Some concerns about iSCSI--its performance, reliability and security--have eroded over the last few years. Only 15% of our respondents feel that iSCSI's performance would be inadequate, and 14% expressed uneasiness about its reliability. Security appears to have become a nonissue with slightly more than 2% citing iSCSI's safety as a reason for not deploying it in 2008.

iSCSI is being used more frequently to host critical applications. Forty-two percent of respondents would use iSCSI storage for their mission-critical apps, a considerable jump from the 32% who said the same on last fall's survey. Email is, arguably, a mission-critical app for most companies, and 43% of those surveyed use iSCSI storage for that important application.

This was first published in June 2008

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