Storage networking infrastructure trends remain generally stable. The average number of installed SANs at responding companies is 3.4, with all company size segments reporting a slow, but inexorable rise. A year and a half ago, a significant drop in the number of installed SANs (2.4) was reported across all company sizes. That dip may be attributed to consolidation efforts; if so, the subsequent climb in the number of SANs suggests that storage growth has caused a shift in gears from consolidation to accommodation.
Network architectures built around director-class and other high-port switches are also becoming more prevalent. Twenty-nine percent of responding companies say they'll acquire switches with more than 128 ports this year. Nearly 47% of large companies report having director-class switches at the core of their storage networks. The CME has a dual core-edge fabric in place, but it's built around fairly hefty directors and switches. "We have core chassis-type machines functioning as an edge to provide a little higher availability and make scaling a little faster," says the firm's Kulesa.
Among switch vendors, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. continue to duke it out for the top spot. The two companies are in a statistical dead heat, with 43% of respondents saying they bought or plan to buy switches from each company this year (see "Switch purchases in 2006," at right). When asked to name a prime switch vendor for 2006--a question that reflects mindshare more than market share--Brocade and Cisco are deadlocked again with 33% each. But Cisco might have the upper hand; when asked to name their primary vendor for 2007, Cisco outscored Brocade 39% to 32%, representing the first time Cisco has led in this respondent ranking. Of course, Brocade's recent acquisition of McData Corp. is likely to have a significant effect on user preferences and ultimate buying patterns, which weren't recorded in our latest, late-summer survey.
Casting the net wide
Spending on building out WANs increased by five percentage points vs. last spring as storage managers fortify their DR readiness with long-distance replication. Once again, DR is the most cited factor for increased WAN spending, as indicated by 67% of responding companies vs. 60% a year ago. (See "Key reasons for wide-area storage network purchases," at right)
Another key component of a business-continuity plan is ensuring that there's ample bandwidth between geographically distant data centers. Forty percent of survey respondents noted that connecting data centers was at least part of the motivation for WAN investments. To ensure adequate connectivity, 45% say they'll buy more or faster long-distance communications lines.
A fair amount of interest was reported for relatively new wide-area technologies such as wide-area file systems and WAN acceleration, with 22% and 19% of respondents, respectively, planning 2006 purchases.