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13 JAN 2007 4:17 PM FUJITSU REVAMPS PRODUCT STRATEGY · MIDDLE EAST ANTICIPATES VIDEO MOBILE SERVICES AS STANDARD BY 2008
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Sans for SMBs
- Thursday, December 22 2005
Storage-area network technology is becoming increasingly affordable for the smaller
company. What’s more vendors are working hard to deliver the same functionality,
but with less complexity.
For years now, Fibre Channel SANs have been seen
as becoming increasingly expensive and complicated,
thereby restricting the technology to the large
enterprise able to afford and cope with it.
Today, the storage industry is making the technology
less complex and more affordable without radically
reducing functionalities within the solution. It’s now a
viable option for the small and medium business (SMB)
looking to get their storage under control.
SMBs have become a major focus for Fibre Channel
SAN vendors looking for new growth markets, with sub-
$10,000 SAN offerings appearing in recent months
from vendors such as Dell, IBM and HP.
“Like any other new technology that gets introduced to
the industry for the first time, it will be complex and
expensive, but SAN technology has been out in the
market for more than ten years now and the
management and operations have become much
simpler and less complex,” says Gerard van
Antwerpen, Data Management Architect, Sun
Microsystems, Middle East.
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The Yankee Group expects the storage networking
market to grow appreciably in the next several years
before it levels off around 2007 or 2008. Key to this
growth, it says, is the ability to penetrate the untapped
SMB market. This will require prices for Fibre Channel
SAN components to continue to drop. Storage and
storage management vendors will also have to work
together to reduce the complexity of Fibre Channel
deployment and management.
“Market acceptance among the SMB is growing so
volumes are increasing and prices are dropping.
Competition is also intensifying and this is bringing cost
down.” says EMC’s Qais Gharaibeh, District Partner
Sales Manager, MENA.
In addition to these factors, to sell to the SMB market,
which makes up the majority of Middle East corporate
community, storage vendors are being forced to offer
the same functionality that had been exclusive to high-
end systems, industry experts. They also need to
provide an easy growth path to cope with projected
data growth and the increasing need to manage it for
the benefit of the business.
“Today, we are in a digital society and information is
the lifeblood of business. Companies must manage
information as a critical asset, securely and through its
life cycle,” says Mohamed El-Shanawany, Storage
Sales Manager Middle East & Pakistan at IBM.
Driving the need to manage data is its rapid growth in
companies of all sizes. A company with a 400Gb data
storage need today is likely to need 1TB next year and
it becomes increasingly difficult to manage such
volumes effectively without a more formal storage
Such an infrastructure, says El-Shanawany, is able to
cope with heterogeneous environments and simplify
the back-up process to ensure data protection and
“We used to see SMBs just buying DAS. But this is
changing rapidly. The major growth is in mid size
companies. They’re moving to storage networks and
management solutions because they are reliable and
Gerard van Antwerpen
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proven and they are getting a good return in investment
in terms of business benefits through better information
utilisation,” he adds.
High-end or monolithic arrays are housed in
refrigerator-size cabinets and come with all the
processing capacity they'll ever have as well as a full
set of feature functionality. High-end boxes can cost
more than $1 million. In comparison, midrange or
modular storage arrays range from $50,000 to about
$300,000, while entry level SANS can start as low as
$3,000 – and there are plenty of takers for these entry
level systems, according to regional vendors.
"The basic idea was to make it easy for
the SMB to move to a SAN environment
and to make that move risk free and
easy, while protecting their existing
storage investments.” Bosco Moraes, Storage Business Manager
HP Middle East
“Like any other technology out today, volume, competition and availability bring down prices.
SAN is not much different and if we compare the cost of SAN technology from a few years
ago to the cost of a SAN solution today, it certainly is becoming cheaper, according to Sun’s
Smaller and cheaper they might be, but they can still deliver high end features and
functionalities such as high performance, high availability, virtualisation and disaster
“SANs also offer the opportunity to optimise storage through HDS AOS, matching the right
type and tier of storage at all times to the varying importance of application data. Data
sharing, data optimisation, rapid access and Business Continuity are key benefits of SAN
deployment which results in reduced TCO and improved ROI,” says John Bentley, Sales
Director, Middle East, Hitachi Data Systems
Hewlett-Packard is heavily focused developing the SMB SAN market from entry level to
midrange. In March it announced that for the first time its SAN-to-SAN fail-over capability can
be added to its midrange Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) products. Other high-end
functionality, such as data snapshots, data mirroring and data migration, is now commonly
found in midrange arrays from most major vendors.
"The pressure is on the high-end systems vendors. Users know the level of sophistication
has moved downstream, and it gives them another option for storage," says Tony Prigmore,
an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
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Bosco Moraes, Storage Business Manager HP Middle East says HP has had a specific entry
level SAN product for the SMB for the past two to three years - initially with the RA 4100 and
later the HP StorageWorks MSA 1000.
“The basic idea was to make it easy for the SMB to move to a SAN environment and to
make that move risk free and easy, while protecting their existing storage investments,” he
This was achieved by enabling its Proliant server users to use the same disks in a SAN. With
the data being recognised automatically, it makes the cost and complexity of migration
“We have been very successful with this solution. It is our best selling array. The cost for
entry level can be as low as $5,000. And the fact that the switch or hub is embedded means
space and cost savings,” says Moraes, stressing that having a growth path was critical and
that capacities on these arrays could grow from 500GBb to 12TB.
So when should an SMB start looking at moving from a direst access storage DAS
“The answer is now; the time is right. Cost of storage has decreased substantially over the
past three to four years and TCO has also come down,” says Bentley.
“Complexity of SAN architecture has always been somewhat of a repellent to smaller
enterprises because of the cost and human resources required to manage and maintain it.
However, there is now a great variety of high quality management tools available to the SMB
market at reduced cost. Analysts are forecasting that there will be a big swing in the SMB
market place from DAS to SAN,” he adds.
Any move to a SAN really depends on the vision of the company, Gharaibeh points out. “If it
is a single application company and is likely to remain so, then you don’t need a SAN. You
only need it when you have a significant data and business growth map.”
“The need for a SAN is driven by the business and the growth of that business. When you
have a road map multiple environments, that’s when you need to consolidate your storage
silos,” he adds
"SMBs don’t need to worry about SAN complexity these days.
Absolutely not. SMBs also desire reduced TCO and better
protection of data, as well as fast access to their data.” John
Bentley, Sales Director, Middle East, Hitachi Data Systems
Endorsing the point, Van Antwerpen says SAN isn’t just about storage. In fact the same
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disks used in DAS (direct attached storage) are used in SAN - it is just the method of
communication to the disk that is different. The cost of Fibre Channel cables, Fibre channel
switches and disks all became cheaper over the years due to the volumes that have been
A SAN solution is managed and monitored far better than a DAS solution and therefore the
data will be safer, he adds. ”It is like taking out an insurance policy and as soon as the
company realises that the data is worth more than the cost of implementing a SAN, the
company should move forward and execute the ‘investment.”
“As soon as there is more than one server that requires external storage, you should
implement a SAN. Having a SAN means more reliable, flexible and ease of data
management,” he says.
Moraes has a slightly different take. “When a company’s server population increases to three
to five servers, then is the time to start thinking about moving from DAS to SAN, though of
course it depends on individual needs. It’s when you have several applications that back-up
becomes a challenge. That’s when it makes sense to consolidate environments.”
The trend downward is also revealed in vendor sales. EMC, for example, reported in its first-
quarter earnings this year that its midrange Clariion line of storage arrays and related
software saw more than a 40% revenue growth for the fourth quarter in a row. However, its
high-end Symmetrix array line went from 5% revenue growth four quarters ago to a 3% drop
in revenue in the first quarter of this year.
Today, the Clariion line has a lot of the same functionality that the Symmetrix has. The core
functionality like replication, cloning of disk, snap copies, SAN mirroring are all tools offered
at the midrange level. However, it’s a solution that is targeted at the higher end of the SMB
sector, and EMC’s Gharaibeh doubts if the sub-$5,000 entry level systems on offer in the
region can really offer such full SAN functionality.
“I would say a good starting point for a system is $30 to $40,0000. But in terms of
technology, costs are coming down,” he says. “But costs depend on where you want to take
your business. SAN is expensive for those that don’t see the value of it, but for those that do,
it’s about how much you are buying to increase revenues, enhance efficiencies and ensures
your business doesn’t suffer downtime through lost data,” he adds.
At Hitachi, Bentley says the cost of fibre channel technology has decreased significantly over
the last two years, together with the cost of storage per Gigabyte. HDS’ Application
Optimised Storage framework helps to further reduce costs through the ability to implement
a ‘Tiered Storage’ architecture, where companies can prioritise critical data to high-end, high
availability storage and other data to lower end, less expensive tiers, lowers the costs even
further. The intermix of fibre channel and SATA disk drives within a single storage
subsystem makes this a reality from HDS.
IBM also announced a storage-area network (SAN) starter kit. The bundled equipment
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includes an entry-level DS400 Fibre Channel array with up to 12TB of storage and a 10-port
Fibre Channel switch. The bundled SAN starts at $16,376 retail, with half a terabyte of
The basic array costs as little as $3,000, says IBM’s El-Shanawany, and an entry level
400Gb single tape drive and cartridge offering has been released for the SMB, while a
company looking to start a more sophisticated business continuity strategy can do so for less
than $100,000 using a small switch and tape libraries.
The key factor, he adds, is that whatever is implemented today must have enough scalability
to accommodate dramatic data growth in the future. The DS400 can scale to 5TB.
"SAN technology has been out in the market for more than ten
years now and the management and operations have become much
simpler and less complex.” Gerard van Antwerpen, Data
Management Architect, Sun Microsystems, Middle East.
Adding to the appeal of midrange systems is the plummeting price of Fibre Channel
components, such as Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) disks, host bus adapters
(HBA) and network switches, as well as vendor package deals that have placed high-
functionality SANs well within the reach of midsize businesses.
HBAs, for example, are less than half the price that they were two years ago and storage
switches have also dropped to about half their former price. Those prices are wooing
companies into buying midrange SANs.
But below the midrange market, is it more attractive to take the NAS route, where there’s
less complexity. Vendors argue that NAS is very good for certain applications where
criticality of data and performance is not a big issue.
Moraes doesn’t see NAS and SAN as competing technologies, but more complementary,
depending on customer needs and budget with NAS servicing file applications rather than
block applications, but even this is changing for smaller companies.
Traditionally NAS is considered to be vastly cheaper than SANs, but SANs are still superior
in terms of availability and performance especially now that storage can be virtualised
“We provide both architectures in the same system, we believe that to improve reliability,
availability, virtualisation and performance, a high quality storage device which capitalises on
the advantages of both is the answer,” says Bentley.
“It’s really all about what a company’s requirements are and how to best satisfy its needs.
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Storage solutions come in a variety of different shapes and forms and with increasing
interoperability across product brands, customisation is becoming more and more of an
SAN costs are also being driven down from competition from IP-based storage, such as
Internet SCSI. (See sidebar and page 32). A lot of iSCSI vendors are bundling in host-based
replication, and it's at a much lower cost when you use iSCSI versus Fibre Channel.
But performance continues to be an issue with iSCSI adoption. IP-based storage currently
poses no real challenge to Fibre Channel because Fibre Channel is still four times as fast as
iSCSI, says Bob Passmore, an analyst at Gartner. Fibre Channel is also far more reliable
because it was built for storage sub-networks and not LANs like SCSI, he adds.
But as iSCSI continues to creep up the data centre food chain and the price of 10Gbit/sec
Ethernet drops, there will be increased pressure on Fibre Channel storage vendors to cut
One of the arguments against rolling out Fibre Channel is the complexity of the network.
Most companies must hire Fibre Channel network administrators to configure and maintain
But El-Shanawany argues that with SAN, administrators can do more with less. “The
advantage is efficiency. IT skills are always rare and a SAN environment with the right
methodologies helps to maximise resources. The smaller solutions are easy to use and easy
to implement. Most of them are plug and play and we’re extending this to higher levels.”
Nowadays, however, many vendors are offering preconfigured SANs that are fairly easy to
deploy. But preconfigured doesn't mean cheap, analysts say. Bundled SANs are being sold
more for ease of configuration than for cost-cutting.
“SMBs don’t need to worry about SAN complexity these days. Absolutely not. SMBs also
desire reduced TCO and better protection of data, as well as fast access to their data. HDS
offers SMBs this, together with simplified implementation and administration facilitated
through its superior hardware and software solutions and the expertise of its service teams
and partners,” says Bentley.
However, the fears that an SMB typically has about SAN – complexity and capital and
training costs - can be addressed by the type of services bundled in with the solution.
“Proper pre-sales consultancy is important as is training – especially for administrating the
SAN,” says Moraes.
EMC agrees. Gharaibeh says the industry is seeing a lot more functionality in the software
that makes it easy to implement and more affordable to manage. Other aspects are financial
options such as the leasing package offered by EMC as well as consultancy to ensure the
right sizing to meet business goals.
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Making the DAS to SAN decision
Anyone who has considered crossing the bridge from DAS to a SAN has faced a
fundamental choice between two technologies: the established, but pricey FC (Fibre
Channel) and the more affordable but still emerging iSCSI (Internet SCSI) transport.
According to the sales numbers, this is clearly a lopsided war. IDC says that 2004 sales
of iSCSI systems generated worldwide revenue of only about $113m. That’s a tiny drop
of less than 2% in the $7.6b SAN bucket, which is nearly full with FC gear.
The dominance of FC ensures that customers can pick and choose from a multitude of
accepted, proven FC solutions.
On the iSCSI side, simplicity and low cost of deployment are the most compelling
advantages. Whereas connecting a server to an FC network requires installing an
expensive HBA plus its drivers and management software, connecting a server to an
iSCSI network can be accomplished with a Gigabit Ethernet NIC, already present on
most servers. An iSCSI initiator - an application t
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