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The prize for pursuing such product innovation is substantial for SAN vendors. A survey conducted by RBC Capital Markets and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), found that the fastest growing market for SANs over the next two years will likely occur in smaller, mid-tier enterprises. To date only 25 percent of mid-tier, and about 14 percent of small enterprise customers have deployed initial SANS. That compares with about 50 percent of companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Gartner Group has also projected that the storage network infrastructure market will grow from $1.3 billion in 2000 to about $10.8 billion by 2005.
However, in order for vendors to capitalize on that market RBC and CompTIA say several challenges have to be met, one of the primary being the price challenge. Beyond price, they say the industry must also overcome standards challenges within the industry which have added to the complexity of installing SAN systems, and their later support. Smaller enterprises in particular simply don't have the resources or expertise needed to maintain ever-growing volumes of digital information. Whereas as speed and performance are typically the most important factors in a large organization's purchasing decision, cost and ease of deployment and management are at the forefront of small and mid-tier businesses' lists.
Overall, the RBC and CompTIA report says the storage networking industry remains robust. Large Fortune 500 companies will continue to invest in SANs, but the fastest rates of new SAN adoption are likely to emerge from the small to mid-tier sector. IP-based SAN networks will likely dominate that emerging market.
One factor which will play an important part in bringing down the cost of SAN's is the use of IP-based SANs, as opposed to existing Fibre Channel-based SANs, but the industry is still bogged down in standards wars. QLogic's Berry says the decision by networking giant Cisco to enter the storage networking market has raised hopes that the industry will be able to overcome its standards issues. "They've already shown that they will be very active in the standards groups and its raised hopes that they will help push things along," he added.
Berry's perspective on the emerging SAN market is certainly well founded. QLogic was the initial driving force behind the Affordable SAN Initiative, but now that it has achieved substantial industry representation, Berry says the reins will likely be handed over to an independent industry body. While not yet confirmed, the initiative is being considered for adoption by the Fibre Channel Industry Association (www.fibrechannel.org). The FCIA is an international organization of manufacturers, systems integrators, developers, systems vendors, industry professionals, and end users with about 190 members.
Companies currently participating in the affordable SAN Initiative include; Acer, ADIC, ATTO, BakBone Software, BMC Software, Broadband Storage, Chaparral Network Storage, Ciprico, Computer Associates, Crossroads Systems, DataCore Software, Dot Hill, Eurologic Systems, Exabyte Corporation, FalconStor, Legato Systems, Inc., LSI Logic Storage Systems, MTI, Nexsan Technologies, Nishan Systems, nStor, Overland Data, Prisa Networks, Procom Technology, Qualstar, Quantum Corporation, Raidtec Corporation, SAN Valley Systems, Seagate Technology, Spectra Logic, StorageTek, Sun Microsystems, VERITAS Software, Vicom and Zzyzx Peripherals.