Cisco exec: SANs too expensive for SMBs

Cisco exec: SANs too expensive for SMBs

Networks that pool together storage resources may be common in the enterprise, but their cost so far has kept them from being deployed in more than 10 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses, said a Cisco Systems executive at Comdex in Las Vegas.

Though the benefits of pooling together storage devices into storage area networks, or SANs, were just as compelling for smaller businesses, these networks remained far more prevalent in large businesses, 70 per cent of which had deployed some form of SAN, the vice-president of Cisco's storage business unit, said.

Ross cited the results of a series of nine focus groups in the US that Cisco had recently commissioned. The study found that cost ranked ahead of complexity, a lack of management tools and concerns over interoperability as the number one reason small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) had not adopted the technology.

The lack of small business adoption made sense with the price of Fibre Channel host bus adapters (HBAs), commonly used in the enterprise to connect servers in a SAN, priced in the $US6000 range, Ross said.

"If your host is a very large $US100,000 server, then you can justify the cost of a Fibre Channel HBA," she said. However, companies would have a harder time justifying the cost of a $US6000 HBA on a $US10,000 server, Ross said.

"That initial acquisition cost is a sticking point, and it's just easier to continue to buy that direct-attached storage," she said.

The Internet small computer system interface (iSCSI) protocol, which can also be used with less expensive Internet Protocol IP) components, was beginning to emerge as a low-cost alternative to Fibre Channel, Ross said.

With list prices of iSCSI HBAs dropping by about 50 per cent in the last year, they were finally reaching a point where SMBs were beginning to experiment with SANs, primarily for data backup, she said.

ISCSI would coexist with Fibre Channel, and not displace it, as some had predicted, Ross said.

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