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Net complexity
With the move toward tiering in primary and secondary storage, how are storage managers modifying networks to accommodate this new sophistication?

Respondents say networks are gradually expanding. Their storage networks included an average of 12 switches, with plans to add another six in 2004. While the number of switches might once have been a measure of network expansion, today's picture also includes SAN aggregation, as users replace multiple small switches with fewer large switches (see Question 10).

Question 10

That trend is likely to accelerate next year as 70% of respondents say they'll move away from SAN islands toward director, core/edge or multiple core/edge topologies. Currently, only 62% classify themselves as having something other than an island architecture. In prior years, users have also indicated a desire--ultimately not completely realized--to move away from islands, so we will have to wait until 2005 to see if progress is made.

But large switches are gaining favor. Since early 2003, respondents have increased the percentage of switches with more than 64 ports from

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10% to 16%. That these larger switches allow users to rein in complexity is demonstrated by respondents having an average of 2.9 fabrics today, and expecting to increase that to 3.1 in 2005.

But fabric expansion and consolidation are only part of the story. Nearly 18% of users expect to deploy iSCSI this year, with two-thirds of those opting for software initiators instead of hardware offload cards. For half of the respondents, that means hosts connected over Ethernet (38% dedicated LAN, 23% over the data LAN) to an iSCSI SAN. But for 28%, it means connecting to the Fibre Channel (FC) SAN through a gateway. The IP/FC gateway approach was even more favored at large companies, where 36% are opting to leverage FC back-ends.

The move toward larger switches and IP may account for the decreasing mindshare of market leader Brocade Communications Systems Inc., which has steadily slipped from 42% in 2003 to a projected 34% in 2005. The same drivers may account for the disproportionate (to its market share) mindshare of Cisco Systems Inc. (21% now, projected to 26% in 2005), which is associated with both trends. McData Corp. has held its own in the high teens to 21% range.

This was first published in November 2004

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