As Storage Area Networks (SANs) become more feature-rich and affordable for smaller businesses, resellers can pitch traditional Fibre Channel or emerging IP versions.
Attracted by the promise of lower costs and infrastructure scalability as a result of pooled storage, Pacific Hydro introduced Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS) SAN technology into its operations. The SMB utilities company adopted the storage networking technology in a bid to control its data growth and ensure improved management.
Melbourne-based Global Storage - a supplier of data storage and security solutions - has plenty of expertise in the world of deploying SANs and implemented the solution.
Global Storage technical director, David Duncan, said the Pacific Hydro example highlighted the growing trend towards SANs reaching into the SME market.
"The company is undergoing international expansion and needs to control data management," he said. "It also needs a scalable business solution to suit its growth path. It offers ease of management and reduced management complexity."
While Pacific Hydro's experience with SAN technology has been a glowing reference, some IT organisations are still debating whether the advantages of implementation justify the associated costs. Many more are still trying to get a handle on today's storage options.
To help SMBs make the leap, resellers can tout a truck-load of SAN benefits, according to Perfekt COM account manager, Bert Keyser. The Melbourne-based service provider averages about 12 SAN implementations a year in the mid-market. The company is educating customers about the main benefits including scalability and manageability - top requirements for today's demanding business environments.
"With the challenge of maintaining cost-effective storage and backup, SANs have proven to be an excellent solution," he said. "The technology allows the consolidation and pooling of resources through a dedicated network for servers and storage systems."
By sharing storage on the network, SANs enable highly scalable and flexible storage resource allocation, better utilisation and higher availability. "The general trend over the last couple of years is towards consolidating storage in the mid-market," NetApp A/NZ director of marketing and alliances, Mark Heers, said. "For every terabyte these companies own, only 40 per cent is being utilised."
This was a costly and unproductive model, Heers said, especially given the explosive nature of data growth and evolving infrastructure requirements. With costs coming down in the SAN arena, the networked storage story was attracting a growing following among smaller fish in the sea, Heers said. Many vendors were pitching solutions that were less complex in terms of installation and configuration, which was good news for resellers and end users alike.
Global Storage's Duncan said SAN uptake in the mid-market was largely being driven by the growing demands for improved business continuity and data governance. The service provider was enjoying particular success in government and healthcare.
"Data has become one of the most valuable commodities that an SME has," he said. "They are becoming more aware of the need to look at more intelligent storage and data management solutions to maintain competitive edge in the market.
"Often there is a core business need or weakness that sees users looking to IT for an answer. SAN price points have come down and we're now getting enterprise-like features including business continuity and virtualisation.
"These make the infrastructure more attractive and more affordable. SMBs can now save on downtime and speed up performance - it's an easy sell."