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Storage reseller predictions from 2005

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Russ Johnson predicts what the storage industry can expect from IP storage in 2005.


Businesses and organisations throughout Europe are generating, managing and storing exponentially growing volumes of data in order to retain their competitive advantage.  And throughout 2005 we can expect to see even more of the same.


Of course, the incumbent technology at the top end of the storage pyramid has been fibre channel (FC).  While sometimes seen as an expensive and complex technology to learn and deploy, FC has been successfully used by larger organisations with the resources, money and business necessity to implement a storage area network (SAN).  To that end, FC has become the established and proven choice, especially where speed and low latency are prerequisites. 


However, for many smaller to mid-sized enterprises (SME), it’s been a challenging task matching their ballooning storage capacity with the lower-cost, but ultimately unwieldy and inefficient, direct-attached storage (DAS) alternative.  The recent emergence of IP storage, especially around iSCSI, promises to deliver many of the benefits and features of a SAN but at a much lower cost.  

 Fortunately for the storage channel, customers are becoming aware of the benefits of IP storage.  They understand that IP storage solutions broaden their options and enable them to address the cost, availability, performance, and manageability issues caused by continual data growth. 


At the same time, larger organisations recognise that IP storage solutions can complement and extend their existing SAN environments, or provide affordable new SAN storage solutions in parts of the IT infrastructure still dominated by direct-attached storage. Complimentary co-existence?


However, there are challenges to the adoption of IP storage.  Early on, the uptake of IP storage was thwarted by misconceptions, such as that an IP SAN requires a specialised iSCSI switch when, as we all know, any Ethernet switch will do.


It is important to stress that there is no need for IP storage vendors or their resellers to be anti-FC, and vice versa. In fact, most storage vendors already offer both FC and iSCSI solutions, or they offer solutions that are compatible between the two technologies. 


On the one hand, FC offers speed and low latency designed for heavy-duty users. On the other, iSCSI brings similar benefits but in a low-cost, lower performance environment.  It’s finding a comfort zone within this trade-off that is so valuable, and a great opportunity for resellers who now have a much wider and more affordable technology choice to offer. And let’s not ignore that FC and IP storage can happily co-exist together in a number of different scenarios, perhaps connecting FC SANs over an IP infrastructure using iFCP. 


Throughout 2005, IP storage will expand the market for networked storage by giving resellers affordable and manageable alternatives to direct-attached storage to sell to their customers.  Clearly, education on when and where each technology fits best is essential, especially since many organisations might need any combination of FCIP, FC, iSCSI and iFCP to meet all their specific networked storage needs. And, finally, the fundamental point to remember when talking about storage to end users is that it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy.  Instead, networked storage solutions must be, and now can be, adapted as much as possible to meet each customer’s unique requirements.


Russ Johnson is General Manager and Vice President of Adaptec Europe