The storage league

To deploy an efficient and scalable storage network, organisations need to purchase a myriad of interconnecting technologies. Alongside storage hardware, organisations need tape and back-up systems, switches, host bus adapters (HBAs) and storage management software. Although many of the leading vendors in the storage market offer these and other components, there are a huge number of companies that also play a significant role in the storage ecosystem. No single supplier offers all the components needed to manage the increasing volumes of data businesses have to contend with, and as storage moves to a more heterogeneous, networked architecture, the more fragmented the market becomes.

SAN/NAS technologies

As organisations move away from direct-attached storage, they continue to increase their spending on storage area network (SAN) infrastructure hardware. These products include fibre channel switches, HBAs, hubs, routers and redundant array of independent disk (RAID) devices.

RAID systems – because of their size and expense – still account for the lion’s share of sales in the SAN hardware market, although organisations spent far less on RAID products in 2001 than they did in 2000. In the negative economic climate, many were forced to slash hardware budgets, while most suppliers implemented heavy price cuts. According to Gartner Dataquest, total RAID revenues fell by 18.5% from $29.4 billion in 2000 to $24 billion in 2001. The main revenue generators in this market are EMC, Hitachi Data Systems and IBM, but a number of other established hardware companies also offer disk arrays, including NEC, Unisys, NCR, Toshiba, SGI, Fujitsu Technology Solutions, MTI Technology, LSI Logic and Bull. In addition, a number of start-ups have targeted the RAID sector, claiming to offer greater storage capacity at a lower price. These include XIOtech, Dot Hill and Ciprico.

For those organisations that are put off by the considerable upfront investment required for a RAID system, network-attached storage devices are well suited to non-mission-critical applications such as file sharing. The NAS market is led by EMC and Network Appliance, but also includes suppliers such as Auspex Systems and Maxtor.

Fibre channel switches, which connect and control the flow of data between the multiple servers and ports on a network, are also a vital component of a SAN architecture. The dominant vendor in this sector is Brocade, which has a 53% market share, according to investment bank Lehman Brothers. Suppliers including McData, QLogic, Inrange, Vixel and Gadzoox also populate this market.

Other fibre channel SAN ‘plumbing’ products include host bus adapters, hubs and routers. Revenues from these products, including switches, will grow from $1.9 billion in 2001 to $6.7billion by 2006, according to market research company Gartner Dataquest.

SAN technology is not limited to fibre channel-based hardware. A handful of organisations are now looking to make more efficient use of their existing IP-based corporate networks by enabling them to host storage. In order to do this, they need to invest in components such as host bus adapters (HBAs), which act as an interface between switches and data servers. Emulex is one of the best-known suppliers of SAN HBAs. Companies such as Adaptec and Cisco have developed switches that connect network-attached devices (NAS) to local area networks.

Storage software

In contrast to a contracting hardware market, sales of storage software are growing strongly. In particular, analysts tip the storage software management market for explosive growth as storage networks become larger and more heterogeneous.

According to analyst company Giga Information Group, storage management software revenues will increase from $8 billion in 2000 to $20 billion by 2006. Suppliers of storage management software include BMC Software and Legato Systems, as well storage hardware heavyweights such as EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM and HP.

For more advanced storage management tasks, a number of vendors have expanded their product offerings to encompass a concept known as storage ‘virtualisation’. This enables storage managers to view a network’s data storage capacity as virtual units that can then be allocated to individual applications. All of the market-leading storage vendors have a virtualisation strategy, but suppliers including DataCore Software, StoreAge and FalconStor Software also populate this nascent market.

The back-up and recovery market, by contrast, is more mature. This market includes large software suppliers such as Veritas Software, Legato Systems and Computer Associates, as well as smaller vendors such as CommVault, Network Integrity, BakBone and Atempo (formerly Quadratec Software).

Tape technology

Despite predictions to the contrary, organisations continue to invest in tape and tape automation products because it is still considered to be the cheapest form of back-up for the burgeoning amounts of data they have to deal with. According to Lehman Brothers, organisations spent $2.4 billion on tape automation products in 2001, but this figure will grow to $3.1 billion by 2004.

In the tape media and disk market, the main battle is between suppliers of super digital linear tape (SuperDLT) and linear tape open (LTO) technology, according to Giga. The pioneer in the DLT market is Quantum, while companies such as Seagate Technology, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are also key suppliers of LTO products.

Suppliers of tape automation products tend to focus on just one of these two tape standards, although some vendors offer both. Automated tape technology is the process where devices robotically back up network data to tapes at specific times. Overland Storage, Tandberg and Benchmark Data Systems largely focus on SuperDLT (and its predecessor DLT), while Exabyte and Advanced Digital Information Corp (ADIC) provide Ultrium LTO, as well as SuperDLT products.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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