DAS: Alive and Well at an Enterprise Near You

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Direct attached storage (DAS) was supposed to be on its last leg by now. After more than a decade of steady encroachment by storage area networks (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS), the DAS market has taken quite a hit.

Yet the decline of DAS has been slower than expected. According to analyst firm International Data Corp (IDC), revenue projections for DAS are in excess of $4 billion for 2007. By the end of 2008, IDC predicts that the DAS market will continue to be larger than the NAS market.

Those vendors that spurned DAS entirely in favor of NAS or SAN may have been premature. While NAS and SAN are heavily dominated by a few giants, there is plenty of room in DAS.

Take the case of NEC Corporation of America. While it offers plenty of products to serve the SAN space, it hasn’t forgotten its DAS roots.

“We can address both the SAN and DAS markets with storage products that meet the needs of our customers,” says Matt Wolken, NEC’s director of enterprise storage solutions. “The reason we address the DAS market is that our customers want a choice in deployment of their storage infrastructure.”

Not all storage is used in a SAN environment, he says. Plenty of customers continue to want high availability and performance DAS without incurring the cost overhead of a full SAN deployment.

Who tends to buy DAS from NEC and why? Not surprisingly, small and medium size enterprises with relatively few servers are among the principal buyers. In addition, DAS is preferred by customers, both large and small, with applications that are single-threaded. While they don’t require the sophistication (and complexity) of a SAN, they need high availability and performance. Thus NEC offers several products in this category. Each can function as DAS or SAN.

Known as the S-Series, NEC manufactures three models:

  • The S1500 entry-level model can store from 220 Gigabytes to 27 Terabytes.
  • The S2500 is more scalable, ranging from 292 Gigabytes up to 48 Terabytes.
  • The S2900 also starts at 292 Gigabytes but reaches up as high as 108 Terabytes.

S-Series units share certain common features such as 4Gbps host interfaces, RAID-6 double parity, self-diagnosing and healing disk, tiered storage, large cache, virtual capacity management, business continuity software and fully redundant and hot-swappable components. Prices start at $16,850.

“Each product is designed to offer full availability, high performance and business continuity,” says Wolken.

He says determining the appropriate solution for a particular customer centers around an understanding of the degree of scalability that is required. The S1500, for example, can scale from 3 to 60 disk drives. It tends to fit best in a workgroup or small business environment. The S2500, on the other hand, can scale from 4 to 120 disk drives. It is aimed more at departmental level and mid-size businesses. Lastly, the S2900 can scale from 4 to 240 disk drives. It is better suited for large business or smaller enterprise applications.

“Our customers use NEC storage for a wide variety of applications, including database, CRM, data warehousing, data mining, transaction processing and many other high-bandwidth environments,” says Wolken.

That’ll Be the DAS

We’ve come a long way since IBM announced the first commercial disk drive in 1956. The RAMAC 350 was a grand 5 MB in size and consisted of fifty 24-inch platters. It was available at the bargain price of $7,800 a MB. Now consumers buy computers off the shelf with 250 GB disk drives.

“The average amount of data managed by an administrator these days is over 50 TB,” says Fred Moore, an analyst at Horison Information Strategies. “But despite the necessity to manage such data via a SAN or NAS structure, there is still a huge amount of DAS out there. Many people believe that DAS is being held up by home users. But that is not the case at all. The DAS statistics remain high due to heavy use by mainline business users.

According to IDC, the retail sector has more than 50 percent of its data on DAS. And the utility, banking, process manufacturers, financial services and transportation fields keep 40 to 50 percent of their total data on DAS.

That’s a lot of customers for vendors still willing to offer DAS.

Article courtesy of Enterprise IT Planet

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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