IDC Europe: Storage safe, short-term investments key

IDC's European storage survey finds storage relatively safe from recession as data volumes grow, but users are diverting budgets to short-term projects such as expanding capacity.

Storage professionals are continuing to invest in growing their capacity despite the credit crunch squeezing many IT departments, according to IDC's "Annual European Storage Survey: Understanding User Needs in a Changing Economic Climate."

The report questioned 522 respondents who managed and purchased storage across Europe during the last quarter of 2008. Eighteen percent of those surveyed name expanding storage capacity as their top priority in 2009, a figure that has remained effectively static for the past three years as data volumes have grown consistently.

Enhancing disaster recovery (DR) provisioning (16%) was the second highest priority, but its response rate was down from 2007's figure of 18%.

According to Eric Sheppard, program manager for IDC's EMEA storage research, these figures reflect the trend toward short-term investment strategies in a difficult financial climate.

"Expanding storage capacity came out well on top, and in the current climate it's that sort of tactical spending that people are going for," Sheppard said. "By the same token, bigger strategic projects such as enhancing disaster recovery, and reducing power and cooling needs, have dropped away as a priority."

When asked in which hardware categories businesses were most likely to freeze spending, PCs (23%) and printers (16%) topped the list. Storage, on the other hand, placed low on the list of candidates for spending cuts (12%).

That's another manifestation of the need to cater to increasing data volumes, Sheppard said. "The good news for storage is that it's the least likely area to be cut. With the kind of data growth that most people are experiencing, it's just not possible to defer spending on that kind of project."

The survey also revealed storage trends in support of server virtualisation, with iSCSI emerging as a strong choice for those investing in that type of environment.

"In general, with server-to-storage interconnects we see Fibre Channel winning out over iSCSI by something like 90/10. But with virtualised environments, we get more like 70/30," he explained. "The higher proportion of iSCSI in virtualised server environments is due to them being lower end environments that don't have Fibre Channel and [they're] not interested in spending that kind of money. In short, iSCSI is cheaper."

Meanwhile, improving application availability and disaster recovery (29%), as well as minimising the cost of storage (26.5%), are key motivators shaping respondents' decisions about which storage solution to use with virtualised environments. "People who implement virtualised environments quickly understand the importance of resilience and want ways to improve application availability," Sheppard said.

He said virtualised server environments have become the killer app for iSCSI, with it being used in a much larger proportion of those situations (12%) than its 2008 shipment totals of 6% of the external array market would suggest.

Read more on Storage management and strategy