Storage costs shift to manageability of products

TORONTO — It’s a problem storage managers know too well: While the cost of purchasing storage devices is on the decline, the dollars needed to handle it all increases as the system becomes more complex.

The dilemma becomes even greater as budgets remain static but the amount of data flowing

through an organization grows exponentially, Brad Stamas, the chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), told the keynote audience at the SAN/NAS Summit Wednesday.

“”What you have is an interesting problem: storage is getting cheaper so there’s more of it, but the more stuff I have, the more costs I have,”” said Stamas.

During his address, Stamas, who is also a senior strategist for StorageTek in Minneapolis, MN, said that while there is always a focus on the hardware side of storage, it represents just a small portion of the cost of storage. According to Gartner Dataquest, seven out of every 10 dollars is spent on the management of storage, a fact difficult to explain to those who control the purse strings.

Two architectures that can address the growing need for storage are network attached storage (NAS) and storage attached network (SAN). A SAN is a network that transfers data between computer systems and storage elements and among storage elements. SAN is optimized for block storage, while NAS is ideal for file storage. The two do not compete, however, and are complementary according to Evans Research Corp. senior analyst Jennifer Ewen.

Hardware and software costs are reduced with SAN/NAS, but the big savings come from reduced human administration costs. From an access standpoint, networks allow for multiple connections, improved data availability, improved scalability and better disaster recovery, said Stamas.

The demand for storage in Canadian corporations has been growing steadily, with the amount of data to be stored doubling every 12 to 18 months (compared to every six months a year ago.) According to Evans, the Canadian network storage market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 37 per cent from $390 million in 2000 to $2.2 billion in 2005.

Spending on networked storage will come from existing storage budgets earmarked for more traditional systems, Ewen said.

“”There will not be new dollars going to storage networking. It is coming at the expense of server and direct attached storage,”” she said.

While adoption of SAN/NAS technology has largely been at the enterprise level in Canada, as costs decline, she said there will be greater adoption among small to medium-sized corporations.

“”There are many industries in Canada that are data-intensive but have a relatively small number of employees,”” she said.

Ewen said the largest SAN installation in the country can be found at a Calgary company doing geographic information system mapping for oil exploration.

Some attendees at the conference said they were there to learn more about the benefits of SAN/NAS solutions as they begin to question the robustness and stability of direct attached system.

Ewen recommended that organizations that are debating the cost of switching from direct attached to SAN/NAS seek out a third party storage audit from qualified VARs, which can be obtained without making any kind of formal commitment.

Stamas also provided an overview of the various issues SNIA has been pursuing since it was first created five years ago. The organization has 250 members and has created the SNIA Technical Institute in Colorado Springs, Col.

Current initiatives include working on delivering interface and conformance standards collaboration for the storage industry, as well as leading working groups on management and disaster recovery and consumer programs for end users.

Among the issues users have asked for more information on is certification for storage networks provided in a vendor-independent environment. The Storage Networking Certification Program was developed in response to demand from enterprise customers worldwide in order to provide standards for measuring the storage networking expertise of IT professionals. Stamas said there is currently certification going on within the association offered at various levels.

The SAN/NAS Summit is part of a cross-country tour of one-day seminars taking place this month. Toronto was the final date on the tour.

Comment: [email protected]

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