We're sure most IT pros will agree that the best thing about 2009 is that it's over. CIOs were forced to run much tighter ships, with capital expenditures postponed or put on hold. Forget introducing innovative storage technologies--or sometimes, even doing basic maintenance, despite the fact that many of our infrastructures are bursting at the seams.
In fact, our InformationWeek Analytics 2010 State of Enterprise Storage Survey of 331 business technology professionals reveals an alarming state of affairs: When asked about their top storage concerns, nearly half of respondents say they have insufficient resources for critical applications. Contrast that finding with a year ago, when data loss was the top worry of the 328 technology pros we surveyed; lack of resources was cited by just 30%. Other 2010 results also reflect a grim financial picture. Compared with a year ago, more IT pros say they have insufficient budgets to meet business demands, insufficient tools for storage management, and insufficient storage resources for departmental and individual use. For some, the reality of stretched resources is sending a harsh wake-up call.
Highpointe Hotel had a major hiccup on its main production server in late December and thought it had lost its RAID system, which would've spelled disaster--not just in terms of guest reservations, but year-end financials, payroll and HR data, and network files. "Fortunately, we didn't, but it brought into clear focus the danger we were in by overextending a critical server because of a lack of resources," says Mark Pate, IT director at Highpointe, a hotel management and development company. "The good news is that I quickly got approval for two new Dell servers, which are being staged to go live within the next two weeks."
Meantime, pressure to meet stringent regulatory and data management requirements isn't letting up, and neither is the rate of data growth. In 2009, 75% of survey respondents reported administering more than 1 TB of data, while 24% managed more than 100 TB. One year later, 87% of respondents manage more than 1 TB, and 29% administer more than 100 TB. A year ago, 21% cited data growth rates below 10% per year. Now, just 15% say they have that (relatively) manageable level of expansion.
We wouldn't be surprised to see the percentage of respondents managing less than 1 TB of data drop into the low single digits in next year's survey. After all, you can now buy SATA disk drives with double that capacity. Even larger drives are slated to be available soon.
Clearly, a terabyte ain't what it used to be. Digital images, high-definition video, audio files, and even virtual disks--Microsoft VHD and VMware VMDK--suck up storage capacity much more quickly than the Office documents of years past.
So what's a storage manager to do when budgets are stagnant or even shrinking but data volumes and storage requirements just keep right on growing?
The first line of defense is better utilization of existing resources. We've all gotten used to playing fast and loose with network gear. IT commonly oversubscribes bandwidth, switching backplanes and router capacities--and we usually get away with it. However, when it comes to storage resources, we've barely approached the limits of full utilization, never mind oversubscribing. The compartmentalization typically seen in direct-attached storage environments exacerbates this situation, and the resulting waste of storage resources has been one of the main benefits stressed by SAN vendors.
Which brings us to our first piece of good news.
As in our 2009 survey, the storage technology used most by respondents is good old-fashioned direct-attached storage. But interestingly, given economic pressure, we saw greater penetration of storage area networks, both Fibre Channel and iSCSI, with Fibre Channel putting in a better showing.
Given tight capital budgets, how did SANs--much less Fibre Channel SANs--do so well?
The simple answer is that vendors have responded to market conditions and developed more affordable options for Fibre Channel and iSCSI SANs, host bus adapters, and Fibre Channel switches. There are still plenty of high-end SANs, with stratospheric prices to match. But we're seeing more lower-cost systems, and not just from small or startup vendors. Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and NetApp are among the established players aiming at budget-stretched buyers. Lower price points combined with SANs' promise of greater utilization, streamlined management, and scalability and availability seem to be too enticing to pass up.
Speaking of vendors, we asked readers for their preferences in four categories: leading backup and archiving vendors, leaders in green storage, vendors they're using for tier 1 and 2 storage, and leaders in deduplication. We didn't get many surprises: EMC was in the Top 3 across all four areas. But HP captured top marks for green storage initiatives, and Microsoft broke into the Top 5 leaders in deduplication.
Small vendors and startups aren't sitting idly, by any means. They continue to push the pricing envelope while offering solid innovations for the buck across a variety of specialties.
Other factors working in buyers' favor include the improving economics of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and final ratification of the Fibre Channel over Ethernet protocol. FCoE is a promising storage advance that lets companies combine Fibre Channel and Ethernet networks into a single converged network while reducing the complexity and cost of maintaining and managing multiple networks and fabrics. Unlike iSCSI, FCoE isn't IP-based, and it provides the same lossless network functionality as standard Fibre Channel, making it suitable for demanding storage applications.
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