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2012 State Of Storage: Year Of SSDs

IT's more concerned about data reliability, security, and performance vs. just keeping up with capacity demand, our annual survey shows.

Consolidation Continues

Direct-attached storage remains the most broadly deployed means of connectivity. Fully 92% of respondents still have some DAS systems hanging around, and 23% use DAS for half or more of their storage needs, virtually unchanged from last year. Fibre Channel remains the most pervasive connection technology, however, with 38% of respondents putting more than half of their storage capacity on FC, up two points from 2011.

Pundit predictions of the death of Fibre Channel over Ethernet are much exaggerated: We found 38% of survey respondents have deployed this convergence technology, up 10 points in the past year, with an intrepid 8% using FCoE for half or more of their storage needs.

Despite the inevitability of Ethernet becoming dominant in storage networks, our InformationWeek Data Center Convergence Survey found that a mere 8% of FCoE users have fully eliminated native Fibre Channel, although an additional 63% are planning to. Only 29% expect to use native FC in the long term. Despite what boosters say, Fibre Channel's prognosis is grim. However, since the turnover in storage networking equipment is relatively slow, we believe it'll be a factor for at least five years, at which point we'll have 40-Gbps or 100-Gbps Ethernet to the edge.

DAS is still common, particularly among smaller enterprises, because of inertia, but its days are also numbered. Most respondents to our storage survey have either already consolidated to centrally managed storage systems or expect to do so--although for many, their plans are still vague. We expect the share of DAS to drop as distributed, cloud-like file systems and scale-out architectures catch on. That's a vital concept: There have always been two design approaches for adding resources or capacity to an IT system: scaling horizontally, by adding nodes, or scaling vertically, by augmenting internal resources. In the world of storage architectures, these are known as scale out vs. scale up. Scale-up systems are still the most common in big companies, and their use has grown apace with the rise of server virtualization and the attendant consolidation of compute and storage workloads.

Scale-out storage systems work differently. Instead of adding more disks and controllers to a single array, IT can increase capacity simply by placing more nodes in a networked cluster. Scale-out appliances, some with embedded hypervisors, represent a threat to big, centralized, high-profit-margin arrays from vendors like EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and NetApp. And central management software and features like storage virtualization and automated load balancing make an assortment of disks and solid-state storage look like a single resource pool.

That's a good thing, too, since the last thing IT needs is more management complexity, no matter where it resides. One-quarter of our respondents cite insufficient tools for storage management as a top concern, which is understandable since only 31% have dedicated storage teams. But a lack of management is just one factor contributing to data protection concerns.

Reliability And Security

When it comes to the storage technologies most used and valued by our respondents, reliability and security trump bleeding-edge features. Not that IT's standing still--we asked which new storage technologies respondents have deployed and saw a general increase across the board.

However, a couple of spikes in the past year indicate that data availability is more important than ever. For example, 67% of respondents use data replication, up 10 points in a year. Other data-preservation technologies, like disk-to-disk backup and snapshots, also rank near the top of our list of 15 storage technologies currently deployed. Another noteworthy jump occurred in the share of those using data encryption, now 55%, up eight points in the past year. Similarly, when we asked about use of backup tape encryption (yes, 43% of respondents still widely use tape), the numbers were up again this year. Fifty percent encrypt some or all of their tapes, while the portion of those with no plans to encrypt dropped nine points.

These results aren't flukes, either. When we asked respondents to rate the most important factors when evaluating new purchases, once again, data replication and encryption came out on top, both cited by more respondents than a year ago, confirming that data protection is top of mind.

As for deduplication and data compression, while they're used in production by 45% and 52% of respondents, respectively, fewer than one-third consider them important evaluation criteria, down from our last survey. Our take is that IT considers dedupe and compression relatively mature and undifferentiated technologies that are--or should be--standard features in any enterprise-class storage system. Vendors expecting them to tip the competitive balance will likely be disappointed.

So what will be a selling point?

This year's survey shows that the age of solid state is upon us: 20% to 23% of respondents, depending on system type, already use SSDs. Although they aren't yet considered a key product evaluation criterion, this will surely change as prices drop and performance improvements stack up, and as products optimized for solid-state memory gain visibility. Once storage system capacity, scalability, and reliability become baseline expectations, throughput and latency will inevitably become differentiators.

Do you encrypt backup tapes?

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