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Storage growth drives buying plans (Part 2)

The results from our exclusive semi-annual Purchasing Intentions Survey are in. Storage growth is a key concern for storage managers, as additional capacity has a ripple effect that touches many other components in the storage environment.

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iSCSI picks up steam
There's been a recent flurry of activity in the iSCSI market, which is beginning to be reflected in the purchasing plans of storage managers. Thirty-one percent of respondents say they're planning iSCSI implementations this year, which is up from 24% six months ago and the highest level of interest we've seen in the year and a half we've been tracking iSCSI deployment plans (see "iSCSI implementations on the rise").

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iSCSI adoption is particularly strong among smaller companies, with 35% saying they'll opt for iSCSI storage in 2006. For the first time, small companies' intentions for iSCSI outranked the number of large- and medium-sized companies planning to implement iSCSI storage. The upturn in small companies' iSCSI plans is particularly dramatic, up 12 percentage points since last fall's survey and 20 points since the fall of 2004.

San Francisco-based CMG Mortgage Insurance Co. plans to move from DAS to networked storage this year. "We're just starting to get into a SAN," says Darrick Wilson, a systems consultant at the firm. "We're looking at an iSCSI SAN." Wilson expects his firm to start with approximately 3 TB of SAN storage, and likes the fact that iSCSI arrays don't require a special network. "Cost is definitely a derivative here -- we are a small shop," he notes.

iSCSI represents a low-cost route to storage networking. But low prices aren't the only attraction for small businesses. Because iSCSI can leverage existing IP network infrastructures, these companies don't need to develop entirely new skill sets or hire specialized personnel to operate and maintain their storage systems. Vendors that have been actively catering to the small- to medium-sized business (SMB) sector have rolled out a variety of iSCSI arrays, some with entry-level configurations that make networked storage affordable to companies with decidedly modest IT budgets. Most of the large, entrenched vendors now offer iSCSI alternatives to Fibre Channel.

Disaster recovery tops data protection priorities
After an apparent blip in the fall of 2005, tape usage seems to be leveling off as disk-based techniques gain further acceptance for backup and disaster recovery. Forty percent of respondents say they're increasing their use of tape, a figure considerably higher than the 31% recorded a year and a half ago, but down substantially from last fall's 48%. More significantly, 20% say they're decreasing their tape usage, while 49% indicate they won't buy any tape libraries in 2006. That proportion of storage managers opting not to add any tape libraries to their environment matches the level of two years ago, and may indicate that users now have a little breathing room after beefing up their backup infrastructures over the past two years.

Among those who will be making tape library purchases, LTO is the overwhelming favorite tape format, with 60% of respondents saying their new libraries will support that format (see "LTO is clear choice for tape media"). LTO has risen steadily over the past three years, mostly at the expense of DLT and SDLT formats. Among LTO buyers, LTO-3 sprung ahead in the latest survey, leading LTO-1 and LTO-2 by 37% and 23%, respectively, which is essentially a reversal of last fall's numbers. The sudden surge can be attributed to the consistent drop in LTO-3 drive and media prices (as reported monthly in "The Real Deal" in the Storage magazine Trends section), which on a capacity-per-dollar basis, pegs LTO-3 at a lower cost than earlier LTO generations.

Although tape's days as a backup medium are far from numbered, it's impossible to overlook disk's steady incursion into the backup environment. Fifty-eight percent of users -- the largest portion recorded in our surveys to date -- say they'll increase spending for disk-based backup products. This is yet more proof that disk has assumed a key role in data protection strategies at a majority of companies (see "Disk-to-disk backup established as core data protection technology"). The overwhelming impetus for injecting disk into the process is to improve backup performance so that growing data stores can be backed up within the allotted window (see "Speedy backups key reason for D2D"). For 42% of those who haven't ventured into disk-based backup, the reason is simple -- their current tape-based systems are handling the job fine. Philips Semiconductors' Williamson says his firm's tape-based backup works well. "The whole thing with disk sounds great in theory," he says. Adding disk to the mix might make life a little easier, he notes, "but it costs money."

"We are looking at some of the devices that emulate tape," says Crossmark's Orndorff. In the meantime, Crossmark does use disk in its backup process, taking advantage of the lower cost Fibre Attached Technology Adapted (FATA) disk in its HP EVA array. "We do scheduled dumps to disk and then we back that up," explains Orndorff. "That's what we use the FATA drives for."

WAN expenditures will likely remain flat in 2006, with the percentage of respondents increasing or holding the line on WAN budgets approximately the same as last fall. Disaster recovery is the runaway leading reason for WAN purchases, as reported by 70% of respondents vs. 60% last fall. More than 50% of those surveyed also say remote replication will be their primary storage-related disaster recovery expenditure in 2006, a number confirmed by remote-mirroring spending plans, where 43% plan increased spending.

Archiving apps have also established a presence in many shops to protect data and reduce the amount of online data that applications have to churn through. File-system archivers have the largest installed base (34%), followed by email (30%) and database archiving (22%) products, with similar numbers of respondents planning purchases of each technology this year. Rather than purchasing an archiving app to run internally, some companies like CMG are considering alternatives such as managed services. "We are looking at Postini," says the firm's Wilson. "Postini is coming out with a business-continuity planning service."

Storage management software languishes
Costly storage management software remains a relatively low priority, as managers are content to stick with point products or the apps bundled with hardware. Approximately one-third of those surveyed report that they have a management product, while approximately 30% say that limited budgets and high prices would deter any purchase considerations this year.

Among those who have purchased storage management software, one-third consider EMC their primary vendor and 18% name HP, a figure that has trailed off a bit since last fall's 21% share.

Many newer technologies are on storage managers' radar screens, along with several more established technologies receiving renewed interest. The top technologies of interest are directly related to the themes of coping with data growth and protecting stored data.

Seventy-two percent of respondents say they plan to either implement or evaluate wide-area replication, again bolstering the growing concern with disaster planning. Hand in hand with replication, continuous data protection was rated at nearly the same level of interest, and data encryption -- the headline grabbing storage topic for much of the last year -- is up for implementation or evaluation by 62% of managers.

Interest in several other technologies -- most notably, SAN/NAS gateways, service-level agreements (SLAs), global file systems and SAN routing -- address the issue of dealing with ever-growing data stores. It's particularly interesting that SLAs were rated so high (56% will implement or evaluate), suggesting that making business units pay for storage may help to control growth.

Functionality wins out
Throughout the most recent and previous surveys, storage managers say the main criteria for choosing a particular product or considering a vendor as a prime supplier are product features and functionality. Despite tight budgets and the crisis of the moment, managers expect their products to deliver as advertised and are willing to shell out a few extra bucks to ensure that. In fact, a product's price was consistently one of the lowest rated criteria. Current hardware and software suppliers are also favored, underscoring the importance of building solid partnerships for both storage users and vendors. "We try to limit ourselves to market-leading technologies," says Fitch Ratings' Maceroli.

About the survey: This is the fourth year Storage has published its twice-yearly Purchasing Intentions Survey. This survey was conducted in March 2006 by email. The results are based on answers from 680 respondents, all of whom had specific purchasing authority for the product categories they were queried on.

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