Simple SANs deliver savings

Customers and industry analysts say new low-priced storage area networks (SANs) can cut management costs by up to 70% for small and midsize business, compared with storage directly attached to each server.

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ISCSI also reduces management costs, since network administrators can install and manage storage networks without extensive retraining. Because of such benefits, research firm Gartner estimates that sales of iSCSI SANs in the small to midsize business market will grow from $300m (£150m) in 2006 to $2.8bn (£1.4bn) in 2010.

The iSCSI SAN hardware costs 20% to 40% less than comparable Fibre Channel hardware, but both types of simple SAN reduce administrative costs with easy-to-use software that automatically creates and resizes volumes, migrates and compresses data and moves data among volumes and arrays as needed.

Among the major iSCSI SAN vendors are LeftHand Networks, EqualLogic, Network Appliance, Intransa, EMC and Dell. Vendors on the Fibre Channel side include EMC and Hewlett-Packard.

Many low-end SANs are deployed to move companies away from disk drives directly attached to servers and to store bulky files generated by Microsoft Exchange e-mail servers. When the Jefferson Union High School District in California relied on direct- attached storage (DAS), it had to impose strict quotas on the e-mails and files that teachers and students stored on the network servers. But since installing Hitachi's Plug-and-Play SAN Kit with 8TB of storage, the district has encouraged students to post portfolios of their work online, says Lou Silberman, technical director of the school district.

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