Report: Users Mull IP

But they won't be rushed... Storage networking customers ambivalent about picking IP over FC

February 4, 2004

3 Min Read
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Many buyers of networked storage see an evolution to IP equipment as inevitable, but they continue to take a wait-and-see approach to the iSCSI-versus-Fibre Channel race.

In "Byte and Switch Storage User Survey," the latest report from the Byte and Switch Insider, this publication's paid subscription research service, 45 percent of respondents said they think Ethernet/iSCSI will ultimately replace Fibre Channel as the primary storage networking interconnection. Only 23 percent expect Fibre Channel to eventually win out, while 28 percent are unsure of the end result.

In their comments, respondents seemed ambivalent: I regard IP as unstoppable – in the fullness of time,” one respondent said. A more cautious reader warned, “Fibre Channel still has some advantages, and funny things happen on the way to market supremacy.”

Some remain skeptical of claims for greater storage efficiencies through iSCSI and IP in general. "FC is more mature," wrote one respondent. "Also, for larger enterprises, the expertise in managing networks and storage are in widely different departments, so iSCSI's promise of using existing human resources does not bear out."

Still, the siren song of IP is tough to ignore. Several respondents commented that Ethernet is more pervasive and easily upgraded than FC, and there are concerns about the state of the FC standards. "While I think that FC will still occupy a segment of the market, I see Ethernet/iSCSI becoming more of the standard," one wrote. "With a clear migration path to 10-Gbit/s speeds, iSCSI has the simplest upgrade path. FC has the advantage of less latency, but I believe FC's unclear roadmap will split the FC market and cause prices to continue to be much higher than the iSCSI alternatives."One thing is clear: A sizeable chunk of storage buyers are thinking about IP. In a separate question, 46 percent of respondents to the survey said they are considering installing an IP-based storage networking technology over the next year. Thirty-one percent are unsure, and 23 percent are set against it.

It appears that, contrary to the notion that IP may be best suited to small departments where Fibre Channel is either too expensive or complex to implement, many respondents are looking at IP-based storage as a data-center alternative. Of those planning to deploy IP-based storage, 65 percent said they will use it in the data center rather than in remote sites or on the departmental level.

The survey, conducted online in November, probed enterprises' plans for implementing SANs, NAS, and IP-based storage, as well as their 2004 budget projections and staffing levels. Other topics covered in the 21-page report include:

  • Levels of storage currently in use

  • Disaster recovery in use, and types supported

  • Implementation plans for SAN and NAS

  • SAN extension plans

  • Rationale for buying networked storage

  • Key factors in equipment selection

  • 2004 budget outlooks for storage products

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch More information about the current Byte and Switch Insider report, "Storage User Survey," is available here.

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