Thursday, April 1, 2010

NAS gains in virtual server environments

April 1, 2010 – I’ve been tracking how users configure their storage in virtualized environments for several years, via end-user surveys, and have noticed that NAS is gaining in popularity vs. other alternatives such as Fibre Channel SANs, iSCSI SANs, and direct-attached storage (DAS).

For example, an IDC survey of 168 IT professionals conducted in the fourth quarter of last year asked users “Which of the following storage types are currently deployed with your company’s server virtualization?” The results:

NAS: 37%
FC SAN: 35%
iSCSI SAN: 29%
Virtual storage appliance: 20%
Internal DAS: 20%
External DAS: 14%

Granted, IDC only surveyed 168 companies, but that’s the first time that I’ve seen NAS top the list (although statistically it’s practically a dead heat between NAS, FC SANs and iSCSI SANs).

In comparison, a survey of visitors, conducted a few months prior to the IDC survey, had the following results (note: The InfoStor survey asked users to choose their primary storage configuration, and did not allow multiple responses):

FC SAN: 53%
iSCSI SAN: 28%
NAS: 10%
DAS: 9%

It’s meaningless to compare the results of the two surveys, but it’s clear from the IDC survey that, rather than trying to standardize on a single architecture for their virtual server storage environments, end users are moving toward a mix of two or more architectures.

I suppose that NAS’ strong showing is attributable in part to the rapid growth of unstructured file data in virtualized environments, as well as improvements in the latest versions of NFS. And, of course, to its relatively low cost, which has given NAS a boost not only in virtual server environments but across the board during the financial downturn. Also, the increasing use of “hybrid” or “unified” storage systems (i.e., NAS + SAN) may also be jacking up the percentages for NAS.

For more on the expanding applications for NAS, see “Evolving use cases for file-based storage,” by IDC analyst Noemi Greyzdorf.


Anonymous said...

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Jeff Boles, Taneja Group said...

Hi Dave,

We've noticed similar results in a 360 user survey of North American enterprise users toward the end of last year; moreover, we've noticed this swing starting to take place in the largest users in the survey (to the tune of about 19% having adopted NFS in a primary way behind their virtual server farms, which reflects about a 50% increase). Unfortunately that survey has remained under embargo with primary sponsors, but watch for more details in the next month or so.

The factors driving this are interesting, including enhanced/easier data protection for virtual server images, and of course ease in provisioning when compared to many block storage solutions. There are certainly still some caveats to be had, and the advantages don't cross all block storage; specifically vendors like 3PAR and EqualLogic stand out in applying their block storage capabilities to the specific needs of virtualized machines (in fact, there is soon to be released a hands-on validation of EqualLogic's capabilities behind aggressive virtualized workloads - stay tuned).

Going to be an interesting time for the major vendors in the next two years, clearly server virtualization is separating the wheat from the chaff, and we may find that the neither the wheat nor the chaff are composed of a singular type of solution, but contain the respective leaders or laggards across both file and block. Vendors, pay attention, and figure out which you want to be.