According to rumour, the storage area network (San) space suffers from a lack of authority, has conflicting communities and is disordered. But is this really true?
As a storage consultant, I often look at how vendors and resellers cope with the diversity and flexibility of Sans.
Most customers agree that these characteristics are the most appealing assets of the technology, although they have proved so far to be their worst enemies.
The reasons for the muddle appear to be functionality issues and a requirement for industry standards.
The complexity of Sans, and the number of vendors involved, has hampered the development of 'Big Brother' standards, causing interoperability headaches.
Companies are reluctant to buy Sans because of changing applications, new standards and improvements in speed and connectivity.
This is frustrating for all concerned. Many IT directors are unhappy with the implementation of their initial San infrastructures because they have not been delivered as promised.
For many organisations the key in moving to a San infrastructure is necessity. Database performance, manageability, virtualisation of storage and disaster recovery are some of the reasons why San implementation is on the increase.
In an ideal world the development of Sans would pause to allow standards to catch up; this in turn would improve confidence in the technology.
Instead, vendors must develop San hardware and software to meet demand for greater performance and functionality.
The demand for new storage concepts drives development at a rate that cannot be sustained by an official standards body looking to unite San vendors.
San hype has diminished but there is growing evidence that the technology is now a practical choice for businesses. However, a San is a significant investment and standards are far from clear.
So how are vendors adapting to end-user demands? Vendors are realising the value of loosening their grip on customers in return for interoperability.
The proposed BlueFin standard is an important example of this trend. Customers need to be reassured that different sources of storage will coexist happily.
Time will tell whether this is just the latest in a long line of IT initiatives that promise more than they achieve.
Paul Hickingbotham is senior storage consultant at Hammer.
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