Customer Barriers and Requirements

Solution providers that are successful at selling SAN and NAS have been able to emphasize the business benefits of the technology to justify the cost. To accomplish this, it's helpful to know what customers expect or require of SAN and NAS. SAN purchasers, for instance, say that disaster tolerance or protection is most influential when they are evaluating a potential SAN solution, with one out of five buyers citing this factor. Interoperability and scalability of the prospective SAN solution also are identified as influential concerns by prospective buyers of SAN solutions. Security and disaster protection ranks high for potential NAS purchasers, with one in five citing this as the most influential factor. Close behind this factor is that the NAS solution offer cost savings. This indicates that cost issues are inescapable when selling NAS.

Customer requirements for services surrounding SAN and NAS are linked closely to customer expectations regarding security and disaster protection. Seven out of 10 NAS and SAN purchasers expect their provider of storage technology to also offer disaster data recovery services. Solution configuration services and support also rank high on the list of services required by customers with seven out of 10 SAN purchasers citing this and six out of 10 NAS purchasers echoing that demand. As expected, customer demands for services from SAN providers are more complex and numerous with integration, remote diagnostics and consulting services required by more than half of all SAN purchasers.

Even so, the importance of disaster recovery services and the related avoidance of downtime cannot be over-emphasized. A survey of current SAN users found that end-customers ranked disaster recovery as the most important reason why they have implemented SANs. On a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 means very important, current SAN users rated disaster recovery a 5. Equally important is the avoidance of unscheduled downtime, which was also rated as very important in why end-customers have implemented SANs.

Disaster recovery and downtime avoidance also lead the list of reasons of why prospective end-customers are evaluating SANs as a purchase, with each factor again rating a 5. This importance of disaster recovery and downtime avoidance mark a departure from early adopters of SAN (1999) who identified consolidation of storage as the primary purchase driver. While still important, consolidation of storage has dropped to the level of important, but not as important as disaster recovery and downtime. The intense focus by end-customers on disaster recovery and avoidance of downtime is attributed to a couple of factors. One is that end-customers are increasingly investing more in storage infrastructure, with Reality Research estimating that the amount of storage capacity at end-customer sites is doubling every 13 months. The second reason is the unfortunate but unforgettable legacy of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the need to protect data.

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Data access over wide-area networks (WANs) is another SAN purchase driver that is increasing in importance. WAN data access has increased from moderate importance (3) to important (4) in recent surveys. Among those end-customers who identify WAN data access as an important SAN purchase driver, nine out of 10 are using messaging applications on their SANs. This emphasizes the importance of understanding the end-customer's total IT information infrastructure and application areas when assessing that customer's business for SAN deployment. For instance, 90 percent of SAN end-customers that identify file sharing as an extremely important reason for using SANs are also deploying file and print applications on SANs.

Additionally, vertical market orientation of end-customers is also worth noting in assessing SAN needs. One-quarter of end-customers in the public sector, for example, report that sharing storage under centralized control is the single most important requirement in SAN deployments. In the manufacturing sector, by contrast, only 15 percent of end-customers point to sharing storage under centralized control as the single most important SAN deployment factor.

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