Driving low-end SANs

By | June 16, 2005

For many years, companies have been faced with managing electronic data levels that are growing exponentially. The increasing reliance on digital technologies, coupled with the need to comply with new legislation, has also brought home the need to introduce an effective storage solution.

But the storage market is changing………..

Recent research from the US mirrors the situation in the UK and indicates that the storage landscape is evolving and that vendors are now introducing initiatives and products in line with this shift. The research reveals that, at the top of the market, (Fortune 500 – 1000 companies) there is a high penetration rate of Storage Area Networks (SANs) where around 90% of the market have them installed and operational. This is not suprising given that it is within this arena that the professional IT people are employed and where the initial benefits of SANs were first felt. This end of the market continues to push the technology to more complex configurations, but below this top segment is where the real opportunity lies.

The small-to-medium-sized business (SMB) market offers vast potential for vendors that can meet the requirements of companies not only wanting, but needing, access to the benefits of SANs but at an affordable level – a point that has traditionally proved a barrier to implementation. Breaking the SMB market down further indicates that within the small-sized business market, the introduction of SANs is growing at 48% whilst the medium segment reveals a growth of 34%.

The New Demand-Driven Business Environment

But what factors have made a significant contribution towards this growth? Fundamentally, SMBs, like larger enterprises, rely on digital data assets. For some time, technology innovations along with a new demand-driven consumer market have been radically changing the way large enterprises architect IT operations. These drivers are now emerging as powerful forces for change in the SMB arena.

The key drivers for this change are:

The use of the Web as a 24x7x365 transactional environment. The use of customer relationship management (CRM) software to track and direct sales efforts. The emergence of high-end rack-mounted servers dedicated to single-task functions. Growing awareness at the corporate-officer level of the value of company data and risks posed by backup and security vulnerabilities.

To meet the imperatives of this new business environment, IT departments in SMB enterprises frequently structure their IT services around three or four servers dedicated to single strategic tasks:

A Windows domain controller to provide file, print, and single log-in services for desktop and laptop PCs. A Web server. An e-mail server. A database server

As such, many SMB sites are finding that their overall storage needs are rapidly approaching the multiple-terabyte level. But it isn’t just the multiple-terabytes of data facing SMBs that have prompted the search for cost-effective, resilient storage solutions. It is also the need to safeguard it from natural disasters that can result in business critical data being consigned to the information graveyard for eternity.

“It won’t happen to our company,” is an overly optimistic view expressed by some naпve companies, as in reality disaster usually strikes unexpectedly and at the worst possible moment. Systems hardware can be replaced, but in many instances the data cannot. SANs provide a reliable technology infrastructure to help secure an organisation´s business data, enabling remote data mirroring, swift backup and highly redundant networking. Without this performance, Business Continuity is flawed and the impact can lead to the failure of a business, and subsequently impact on jobs and the community.

But despite the obvious benefits of introducing a SAN, many companies state, “We can´t afford it!” and that, “We have more pressing priorities!” This is understandable given that many IT budgets are still recovering from recent economic downturns. But companies need to decide what the real cost would be to not address business continuity? The cost of data loss and the impact on business far outweigh implementation of a business continuity strategy. Companies need to truly assess the impact of fire, flood, office building closure etc upon their business.

Traditionally, this has been a tough assessment to make, as until recently, SANs were beyond the fiscal reach of smaller enterprises. Vendors are now addressing this issue by introducing more affordable solutions that offer future-proofing of investment. These solutions also simplify interoperability and SAN management, both of which have historically put off SMBs from purchasing products. Solutions need to be plug-and-play. There can be little doubt that the advantages of a lower price point and increased simplicity act as greater drivers for an SMB, than the traditional logic for SAN installation.

While the data being held by companies continues to grow, and the importance of that data continues to rise, SMBs need a solution that has the backup and disaster recovery capabilities offered by a SAN, and an ease of use that allows the non-technical expert to be confident and time efficient.

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