The time is right for efficient storage


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With more than 300 TB of disk capacity already installed, Troy Downing, systems analyst II at Rain and Hail L.L.C., a farm property insurance firm in Johnston, Iowa, will be looking to add more disk. "Right now we've been figuring about 10% to 15% growth per year," he said. "My guess is that probably toward the end of the year we may end up adding another array." Some of that expansion is due to a virtual desktop infrastructure project slated to roll out this year.

At Horace Mann Educators Corp., an insurance company for the education community in Springfield, Ill., Thomas Janssen, director of IT, expects the company to add some capacity to a few of its installed EMC Corp. arrays. "The disk storage that we would be purchasing in 2009 is primarily going to be for tier 2 storage for the Clariion," said Janssen. "We're probably looking at another 30 TB this year."

Regardless of how much money is available to spend and ever-rising capacity needs, over the years we've seen little movement in how storage managers break down their budgets. This time, it's more of the same, with the biggest budget chunk (39%) earmarked for disks and disk systems. With diminishing budgets and rising demand for capacity, one would expect that percentage to grow year to year, but those conditions are largely offset by the dramatic price cuts we've seen for disks and disk subsystems over the past few years.

No skimping in some areas

The types of disk systems our respondents

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will shop for hasn't changed a lot. Midrange systems have broad appeal for companies of all sizes and still grab the most attention, with 45% of those surveyed opting for this system class. Over the past several years, midrange systems have managed to increase their turf by going "down market" to offer smaller companies enterprise-class features while extending further into enterprises as cost-effective, high-density alternatives.

While it might be a sign of the times that one respondent said their primary disk storage vendor for 2009 would be eBay, it doesn't appear that many storage managers are ready to cut corners when it comes to arrays. Fibre Channel arrays and NAS systems top the currently installed list, with 65% and 64% of respondents, respectively, saying they have those types of storage. iSCSI, once touted as the rising star of storage, has indeed risen, with 32% of respondents saying they've deployed iSCSI arrays vs. 27% last spring. iSCSI doesn't appear to be riding the coattails of server virtualization as some predicted, as more than 50% of those surveyed are using FC for their virtual server environments vs. approximately 12% using iSCSI -- numbers virtually the same as those we saw last fall.

But there's not much evidence that iSCSI storage will emerge as a low-cost alternative to Fibre Channel during these tough times. That said, one of iSCSI's strongest selling points is still its price, with 33% of those surveyed going for iSCSI because it's cheaper than FC, and another 15% just looking for cheaper storage in general. The bottom line for storage buyers is still the features and functions that disk systems offer; 33% of respondents say that was their key purchasing criteria, which is the highest number we've seen in two years. Surprisingly, price was the prime consideration for just 16% of those surveyed, which is 12 points lower than reported a year ago.

This was first published in May 2009

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