How Cloudy Is the Future of Storage?

Frank Ohlhorst
According to a recent In-Stat survey, over seven in 10 small- and medium-size businesses that use cloud-based storage solutions also use networked-attached storage (NAS). While SMB NAS represents a smaller portion of the total NAS market, SMB NAS is expected to grow at a much faster rate over the forecast period with revenues reaching $2 billion in 2015, says In-Stat.

New research findings include:

  • 57.3 percent of SMB survey respondents use NAS technology products.
  • North America and Europe will represent 84.6 percent of the revenue opportunity for the SMB NAS market.
  • Survey respondents that "don't use NAS" tend to have less than 50 employees.

The results of the In-Stat survey present an interesting juncture in the world of storage because many are predicting that cloud-based storage will supplement or replace on-premise storage, and others are claiming that cloud storage could never replace the security and speed found with on-site storage solutions.

While that argument rages on, one has to wonder about the true definition of NAS. In its most basic form, NAS is defined simply as network-attached storage where storage devices can be attached directly to a network and accessed via Ethernet. However, there's a lot more to NAS than just that. NAS is typically designed to provide access to files using traditional operating-system-based file access methods, making a bold plug-and-play simple and inexpensive for small networks.

Price and simplicity are probably the two primary factors that make NAS so attractive to small businesses. The same can probably be said for cloud-based storage. However, NAS in the cloud is not the only option available to small businesses today. There are, of course, storage area network (SAN) solutions that can provide low-cost and simple ways to provision storage solutions.

In the past, SAN solutions proved to be prohibitively expensive for most small businesses. However, the market has evolved with new players coming on board that can offer SANs at a fraction of the cost of the traditional large SAN vendors, such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco.

I recently took a look at two smaller vendors that are offering SAN technology and a bit more at a very low cost when compared to the traditional tier-one vendors. Those two reviews clearly show that there is a trend in the SAN market to make storage much cheaper and provide the ability for onsite-based storage to compete with cloud-based storage based upon price and performance. If you're interested in taking a look at alternative SAN vendors before investing in NAS or cloud storage technologies, you might want to check out my reviews of offerings from Nimble Storage and Coraid. You just might be surprised at what you'll find.


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Jun 7, 2011 12:06 PM Jim Profit Jim Profit  says:
@Brian Shillair Seems like you don't know much about coraid products. Not confusing with another brand ? First Coraid is based on Ethernet technology, more precisely Ata over Ethernet. Then a SAN can't be much simpler than that: You interconnect your server and storage using standard Ethernet switches. You give unique label to each storage bay or VSX appliance. You configure physical LUNs (=raid arrays or JBOD) on storage bays. If you use VSX appliance you create logical LUNs on the VSX appliance, and you configure synchronous mirroring between physical LUNs. Then each LUN is immediately available from each server connected to the SAN. (of course you can do LUN masking) On Linux the driver is part of Linux kernel since 2005, you connect any nomber of gigabit port on the SAN: multipath is automatic, and the bandwidth of each port is fully used without configuration. You just do: "aoe-discover" to discover the LUNS, then you can access them using the device /dev/etherd/label.lun# ie: /dev/etherd/e0.1 for the first lun of the e0 bay. On Vmware you install the Coraid HBA and the LUNS are available like if they were directly attached. Drivers are also available for Windows, Solaris etc. You don't have to configure anything like IP address, multipathing, nic bonding... Reply
Jun 15, 2011 6:06 PM Clayton Desouza Clayton Desouza  says:
Well there are a plethora of vendors who offer NAS , SAN and a combination in the shape of whats is generally termed as " Unified Storage" coined by Netapp I think . So quite often one box will serve both SAN and NAS needs instead of going for Seperate boxes for SAN and NAS . Though I do think there will obviously be some Compromises involved in a Unified Storage as such . On the Vendor Front Low end NAS'sand SAN's are available aplenty from vendors such as Data robotics , Thecus , Buffalotech , amongst others So I think you should possibly review these products as well . I do sell 2 of those brands which do add values and innovative approached to the Standard NAS and SAN , but I do beleive that these brands also need to be reviewed in general user interest . Reply

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