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Small Is Beautiful

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the hot new storage networking market is the small- to medium-sized business (SMB). As demand for storage devices of all kinds drives, enclosures, switches, HBAs, and other gear – grows, prices have fallen far enough to allow smaller organizations to afford networked storage for the first time.

This is good news for the industry, of course. But it poses a challenge: Since the average SMB IT staffer is apt to be on information overload and salary underload (see Data Center Staff Are Revolting), it's unlikely he or she will have either the time or the inclination to become an overnight expert in storage networking. That means technology originally designed for large-enterprise applications – and teams of storage specialists – must be simplified for SMB consumption and adapted to smaller budgets.

How this is happening is the topic of the latest Byte and Switch Insider report – Storage for SMBs. In the course of researching the report, it became clear to me that the SMB market is evolving in two dimensions – that of the products themselves, and that of how they're sold.

Let's look at the products. One reason the market's ready for SMBs is that equipment is commoditizing. Yes, the dreaded C-word. Up to now, it's been an undesirable reference, even a dirty word, to vendors addressing the SAN segment, where we're used to thinking of products as specialized and expensive. Indeed, I used the C-word in conversation with Dan Colby, general manager of storage systems at IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) last year, and he balked – though he eventually conceded that it is taking place in the lower reaches of the market.

In his next breath, however, Colby told me: "You want SATA? I'll give you SATA by the end of the year, and I'll be OEMing the box, not making it myself." Sure enough, IBM went on to offer low-end SATA drives on the FastT RAID arrays from Engenio Information Technologies Inc. (see IBM Settles on SATA and OEMs Prop Up Dot Hill, Engenio).

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