SANs: The Latest Hype
After all of the preaching about storage area network's (SAN's) potential, storage manufacturers are now serious about standards. The introduction of a number of new, interoperable SAN solutions has made this technology ripe for the channel.
Whenever a new technology is introduced, there is usually a lot of hype accompanying it. Remember how electronic document management was going to lead to a paperless office? Or how credit cards in the U.S. would all be smart chip-based?
Truth be told, these technologies have made significant headway and continue to increase their installation bases. However, all new technologies require change. And most transformations do not occur overnight.
SANs In The Spotlight
One of the latest technologies to receive attention is storage area networks (SANs). A SAN is a dedicated network that connects all of the servers and clients to a shared pool of storage devices. SANs are driven by Fibre Channel technology, which allows users to access storage housed up to two kilometers from the servers.
Like many others, I preached about SAN's potential (see Business Solutions, October 1999, p. 12). Last fall, data storage needs were growing at a breakneck pace. And, the storage industry was moving toward a centralized model for storage. SANs emerged as a new solution to address these needs.
Dramatic Predictions For SAN's Growth
Building on the hype, industry analysts made big predictions about SAN market growth. For example, IDC (Framingham, MA) predicted that by 2003, SANs would account for 37% of the spending on external disk storage systems worldwide. This research also found Windows NT as the leading platform for SAN solutions.
However, SANs lacked standards and interoperability among different technology manufacturers. SANs were hard to install because individual components did not always work together. This was evident at COMDEX ‘99 where vendors were talking about SANs, but few had actual installations running. The SAN solutions that had been deployed were in larger enterprises and were installed by providers who had more expensive, closed systems.
SAN Interoperability Around The Corner?
Since COMDEX ‘99, SAN technology has made headway. Organizations like SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) are building standards for storage area networks. In addition, many technology manufacturers have partnered to build SAN solutions using their different components. These solutions have been lab- and beta-tested to assure interoperability. Some of these manufacturers include JMR, McData, and nStor (see announcement on p. 40). Most of the storage manufacturers now have SAN partners and testing facilities either operating or in the plans. This was readily apparent at Network Storage 2000, June 19-21, in Monterey, CA, and at the SAN Conference, May 30-June 1, in San Jose.
The VAR Opportunity With SANs
Technology manufacturers have now launched VAR programs for their new multi-vendor SAN solutions (see Connex on p. 42). The timing is right for technology VARs and integrators to examine these solution sets and sell them to their customer base. As for the hype associated with the SAN market's rapid growth, the storage industry still has a way to go. For significant market growth to occur, there will need to be interoperability among all SAN products not just specific solution sets.
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at ShannonL@corrypub.com.