SAN market moving out of infancy stages in Canada

Storage area networks (SANs) are going through a metamorphosis at the same time that more and more organizations need to implement the technology.

But some believe we’re really at the ground floor.

“While it seems that there has been tremendous growth in storage, we’re really just at the tip of the iceberg. There’s an avalanche of data coming,” said Michael McFarlane, the marketing manager for Hitachi Data Systems in Willowdale, Ont. He believes it is the CRM/ERP markets that are the core contributors to the increase in information. The growth areas are in the Unix and NT space, he said.

Graham Verge agrees with this assessment.

“The industry is beginning to mature and is going beyond backup into live access to historical information driven by content management and ERP systems,” said the solutions manager for communications services provider xwave in St. John’s, Nfld. This transition represents the next evolution of data storage, he said.

Another trend is the movement away from the selling of hardware and software, installation and then allowing the customer to take over more responsibility on the management of storage. “[Some] customers are looking for a data managed system where they would pay so much per megabyte and we would look after the rest, the hosting and managing of it.”

The key, as with many technologies, centres around how quickly companies will adopt it. This will dictate the future use of SAN.

Verge said that as companies continue to move towards a Web-enabled environment, SANs will add the ability to access historical data. Early adopters of the architecture, he added, will be among the first to evolve their network technologies.

SANs have moved beyond the emerging stage towards widespread adoption, said Kevin Germann, the senior manager of technology for Kanatek in Kanata, Ont. The early adopters began using SANs two years ago. The main benefits are performance and availability of storage resources, he said.

“(One benefit is) better performance for enterprise backup, and it can be a key component in your disaster recovery strategy by allowing you to link different campuses together.”

Germann described SAN as a networking technology that allows servers and storage to be networked in an enterprise; the storage can be shared instead of each individual server storing data. He said that security could be an issue. Initially, early adopters implemented a fairly small network, and security zoning was seen as adequate. Zoning allowed only the servers that were specified to have access to volumes on the SAN. “Now, when you start linking a very large network, you want to secure the data that is going over the links, then you would want encryption-type security. That’s not here today but it is coming with Brocade’s Secure Fabric OS.”

McFarlane said that Canada is lagging behind the U.S. in SAN adoption, but Verge disagreed, saying it’s not about positioning but differing markets.

“We can’t sell it if they don’t want it, and that’s the problem.”

Verge added that it’s because Canadian customers are more conservative and less risky than their U.S. counterparts that the market is behind. “If the U.S. market grows by 300 per cent, three years later [Canada] will grow by 100 per cent.”