Storage Products That Drive Revenue2:34 PM EST Tue. Sep. 30, 2008
Big-ticket items like the latest storage array or blade storage devices grab the headlines, but it is still the little things like hard disk drives and RAID controllers which solution providers say are storage revenue drivers.
And the top revenue drivers are not the most expensive products, according to the Everything Channel State of Technology: Storage special report.
Sixty-three percent of storage solution providers said they sell hard drives, including SATA, SAS, SCSI, and Fibre Channel models. That number includes solution providers who sell hard drives to increase the capacity of SAN and NAS appliances, as well as those who build and configure both name brand and whitebox servers.
The survey did not go into detail about which specific drives the solution providers sell, but the trend is continued strong growth for SAS and SATA hard drives to both the appliance and the server direct-attach markets, stable or slightly weakening sales of Fibre Channel drives as iSCSI array sales continue to erode the popularity of Fibre Channel, and rapidly falling SCSI sales thanks to SAS, which has all the benefits of SCSI without any of the disadvantages.
The second-most commonly sold storage product, according to the State of Technology: Storage survey, is RAID controllers, with 52 percent of solution providers surveyed for the report selling the products.
Logically, it should be no surprise that the number of solution providers selling RAID controllers is second only to the number selling hard drives, as those controllers are needed to attach customers' servers to many of the storage arrays or direct-attached hard drives they buy.
This is especially relevant given that a large part of the channel's sales still go to small and midsize businesses where, despite the growth of the networked storage market, a large part of the storage business is still direct-attached RAID and JBOD (just a bunch of disks, or non-RAID storage).
Forty-eight percent of solution providers selling storage products said they sell NAS appliances, giving that product the number-three spot on the overall list and making it the most common appliance on which solution providers' customers store and access their data.
NAS appliances have become common in companies from small businesses to enterprises as an easy way to make files available to multiple users. However, today they are just as likely to be sold by solution providers to tech-savvy consumer and SOHO users who want to serve files, whether they be business-related data or audio/video/photo files, to multiple users.
Forty-six percent of solution providers surveyed by Everything Channel for the State of Technology: Storage report said they sell Ethernet switches. That is a significantly higher percentage than those who sell SAN hardware, a sign of the importance of IP networks for sharing data.
Ethernet is ubiquitous in businesses as the primary technology for networking, a fact that is helping to drive not only NAS appliance sales but iSCSI-based storage networking products as well. And it will become even more important for storage as the industry moves towards adopting 10-Gbits-per-second Ethernet and a new storage protocol just over the horizon, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).
Even though prices of USB flash drives, also known as thumb drives, have fallen to the point where some companies give them away as promotional items, 44 percent of solution providers said they sell the items.
While in their very basic form, flash drives are just another form of blank media, several vendors offer models with built-in security features, while others pre-load software such as virtual desktops or boot programs for building storage devices, ensuring that solution providers looking to add value to their sales have those opportunities.
Whoever said tape is dead does not live in the channel. Forty-three percent of solution providers say that tape is very much alive and is one of the storage products they sell to customers, according to the survey.
However, how customers use tape is changing. Instead of being the primary backup media, it is more and more getting relegated to use for long-term archiving of data. For regular backups and restores, the medium of choice is becoming hard disk because of its speed and the ability to move data quickly in case of a disaster.
Customers seldom have enough storage, and for many of them direct-attach storage arrays are the way to either expand the capacity of a server or of another storage device.
They are also very popular with the channel, it seems, as 41 percent of solution providers report selling the devices.
CD-ROM, DVD, Blu-Ray, UDO. About 40 percent of solution providers sell some form of optical drives ranging from simple CD-ROM drives in low-priced computers to complex UDO drives aimed at long-term data archiving.
Thanks to Sony and its decision to lose money by including a Blu-Ray drive with every PlayStation 3 game console, that format is catching on in the consumer market as the presumed successor to DVD for watching movies at home. But for solution providers, the format of choice still remains DVD, with some specialized VARs working with formats like UDO for data archiving.
While retailers account for a large portion of the USB-connected or FireWire-connected external storage devices including fixed and removable hard drive and optical drives, the products also seem to be popular with solution providers, 37 percent of which sell the products.
This is despite the fact that there is little or no value-add to the products which, in theory, just plug in and are ready to go in minutes. However, small business customers can always use lessons from their friendly neighborhood solution provider about backing data up and preparing for disasters.
With so many customers dependent on email, it's no wonder that 36 percent of solution providers sell email archiving solutions. These can be hardware appliances, software appliances, and now even virtual appliances which run on virtual servers created in VMware environments.
This category of products, which includes arrays, switches, HBAs, and other hardware for building storage area networks, is sold by 36 percent of solution providers, according to the survey.
Why wonder whether it is better to store data in a file format (NAS) or block format (SAN) when one can do both? Customers of the 35 percent of solution providers who sell combination NAS/SAN appliances already know that answer.
These appliances are available either as complete arrays with integrated storage capacity offering NAS and either Fibre Channel or iSCSI or both SAN capabilities, or as gateways which allow data to be stored in file-level and block-level formats on a separate Fibre Channel or iSCSI array.