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Midrange Morphology

Everyone needs more and better storage these days, so it should come as no surprise that midrange SAN systems are starting to look like high-end "mini-me's" or that choosing one is getting to be an enterprise-sized task.

Indeed, the growing diversity of features and functions testifies to a market that's robust enough to foster lots of competitive activity. Companies are storing more data than ever before. Vertical markets like healthcare have fostered massive storehouses of digital images – which can't be thrown out, ever.

And speaking of throwing things out, much enterprise data – over 60 percent of it, by most assessments – is in the form of unstructured email and Microsoft Office documents. This kind of corporate flotsam, which used to be trashed regularly, might now be required to defend a company's innocence or prove its guilt.

This fresh demand for networked storage is converging with a ready supply of new, cheaper disk hardware, such as new SATA drives. At the same time, trends such as 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, iSCSI SANs, and virtualization are increasing the number of factors that IT managers look for in new systems.

These variables make for a dizzying array (no pun intended!) of midrange SAN choices. Systems can be purchased in a capacities of less than 1 Gbyte to more than 150 Tbytes. They support iSCSI, Fibre Channel, Ficon, and other protocols through a range of physical interfaces, including Gigabit Ethernet. Prices can range from $10,000 to more than $150,000. Software options, often offered through partnerships with other vendors, include device management, remote replication, snapshotting, and clustering, to name just a few.

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