UK data centres buy disk despite smaller storage budget

The purchasing process of UK data centres is dominated by the need for greater disk capacity. Buying products from vendor already supplying technology to the company is important.

Despite the bad economy, businesses still need storage. The purchasing process of UK data centres is dominated by the need for greater disk capacity (with an average of nearly 30 TB added last year), while tape use decreases. Most UK storage corporate purchasing is of low- and midrange systems, and the most common reason for buying a particular storage vendor's product isn't features and functions, but that the vendor already supplies technology to the company.

Those are some of the findings of the purchasing intentions survey carried out in the final quarter of 2008.

Of the 435 storage managers surveyed, most (64%) reported their storage budget as less than £500,000, while 8% had more than £5m to spend. In between those extremes 7% reported a storage budget of £500,000 to £1m, 8% had between £1m and £2.5m, and 1% had £2.5m to £5m to spend. With nearly 10% reporting storage budgets of £5m or more, the overall average budget was £1.1m.

Table of contents
Disk storage
Favoured disk vendors and reasons for purchase
Green storage, virtualisation and iSCSI
Storage networking
Disk-to-disk (D2D) backup and data deduplication
Disaster recovery
Archiving, compliance and security
Storage management software

Disk storage

The average amount of disk capacity UK businesses planned to add in 2008 was 27 TB. That's quite a high figure for many data centres, but for some this amount of added capacity seemed to represent the replacement of old storage with newer, more efficient subsystems. That was the case for Paul Caney, IT manager at London taxi firm Addison Lee.

"We've added 12 TB this year, but that's because we moved from distributed 60 server DAS [direct-attached storage] to a Pillar [Data Systems] SAN/NAS array. Previously, we weren't keeping all our data, but now we can, which is useful for running reports and business intelligence, as well as making security and backups easier to manage."

UK IT departments lean heavily on network-attached (NAS) subsystems, with 67% of respondents deploying them and only 36% running Fibre Channel storage-area networks (SANs). Meanwhile, iSCSI SANs are being used by 27% of those questioned, with another 18% using multiprotocol arrays. DAS is still common, however, with 54% of storage managers reporting its presence.

Chris Puttick, chief information officer (CIO) at research organisation Oxford Archaeology, said he added 12.5 TB of disk capacity over the past year, some to the company's Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SAN but most to a newly implemented Sun Microsystems Sun Storage J4200-based NAS setup.

"We've added disk capacity to alleviate pressure on our main SAN, which is a result of the nature of our business. We have to keep everything because raw data might be useful anytime in the future," Puttick said.

When asked about their purchases of disk subsystems in 2008, nearly four-fifths of UK storage managers reported buying low (42%) and midrange products (37%). A mere 12% reported buying high-end storage subsystems.

Overwhelmingly, disk spending was directed toward new drives for existing systems, with 44% reporting such purchases. New Fibre Channel SANs accounted for 15% of spending reported in 2008, with 16% directed toward NAS and the same percentage to new DAS assets. iSCSI accounted for 11% of budgets.

Direct-attached storage still comes out on top for file storage, with 45% of users reporting it as the medium of choice. The next most popular choice was the NAS filer (17%), followed by NAS gateways in front of a SAN (10%).

Favoured disk vendors and reasons for purchase

The most popular choice of disk system vendor was Hewlett-Packard (HP), with 42% of respondents reporting they had or intended to purchase their systems from HP in 2008. Dell was second with 40%, followed by IBM (27%). Storage giant EMC was the choice of 17% of users, chased by NetApp (11%) and Sun (10%). Fujitsu and Adaptec trailed the pack with 9% and 6%, respectively.

When storage managers were asked who would be their primary supplier of disk subsystems in 2009, the order remained the same: HP (29%) first, followed by Dell (22%) and IBM (13%).

So how do storage managers choose whose information technology products to buy for their data centres? The biggest factor for many is if the vendor already supplies other technology to their company (28%). Price was the most important consideration for 19% of those questioned. Remarkably, only 18.5% chose which products to buy based on features and functions. The same percentage based their decision on the quality of support.

This is in stark contrast to the findings of US sister site's purchasing intentions survey, where features and functions were a major reason for procuring a particular vendor's product (31%). (Read "Comparing UK and US storage managers' buying behaviour" for more on the differences between the US and UK purchasing intentions surveys.)

Oxford Archaeology's Puttick said features and price were his main criteria for vendor selection. "We went for the Sun hardware on the basis of a combination of function -- snapshots, self-repairing file system, iSCSI potential -- and price. My impression is that the majority of UK IT buyers are quite gullible and that salesmen can sell to them on the basis of functions which they'll never use. There's a good reason why IT salespeople turn up in flashy cars."

Simon Marriott, IT manager at Bradford Grammar School, said features and price were also the reasons his organisation selected products. "We have five SAN units and IBM predominates, but we also have Dot Hill [Systems] and EMC in there," he said. "We have virtualised storage using FalconStor [Software] devices, so it doesn't matter whose hardware we buy. When we come to purchase, we go mainly on price as long as it does what we need."

Green storage, virtualisation and iSCSI

Green storage has been buzzing around the industry lexicon for a couple of years now, and our survey shows that energy consumption is a major factor in purchasing decisions for 49% of storage managers and a minor consideration for 38%.

Another hot topic has been server virtualisation. Its effect on storage has been to drive the adoption of shared storage. This is confirmed by our survey, with 31% reporting they use Fibre Channel SANs as storage for virtualised server environments and another 11.5% using iSCSI SANs. NAS was the storage method of choice for a mere 8%, while 35% hadn't virtualised servers at all.

And despite iSCSI's buzzword status over the past couple of years, most respondents (66%) hadn't implemented it and had no plans to do so in 2008. A quarter of the storage managers surveyed planned to or had implemented iSCSI technology with software initiators, while 9% intended to do so with hardware adapters (TOE cards).

Cost and adequacy of performance are the chief reasons for choosing iSCSI, according to our respondents, with 25% stating its cost benefits over FC and the same amount seeing it as a good way to add low-cost capacity. Just over that amount (27.5%) selected iSCSI storage because they considered its performance adequate for their applications.

That viewpoint was reflected by Oxford Archaeology's Puttick. "We went for iSCSI because my technical experience told me that we simply didn't need the type of brutal performance that you get with Fibre Channel," he said.

When asked why they wouldn't deploy iSCSI, 43% of respondents said they simply didn't need more storage. Inadequate local-area network (LAN) capability was cited by 17% as the reason for non-deployment, while 5% consider the technology unreliable for their uses.

Storage networking

Most users questioned (53%) have between one and 10 SAN switches, 9% run between 11 and 20, 5.5% run between 20 and 50, and 9% have more than 50. But nearly 25% have no storage-area network switches at all. Of those respondents planning to purchase switches, 40% will buy between one and 10 switches, 8% will purchase between 11 and 20, and approximately 9% plan to buy up to 50.

Cisco Systems leads in mindshare among storage fabric switches with 50.5% of storage managers having installed its products or planning to. Brocade was second with 19%, followed by QLogic (12%) and HP (6.5%).

For Sasi Chevuru, technical architect at retailer Claire's Accessories, vendor influence was the key to his fabric switch selection. "Our fabric switches are Brocade with some QLogic. Why did we choose those vendors? They came as a bundle from IBM," he said.


The status of tape as a backup target is declining, but it's not dead yet. While 32% of respondents expected their use of tape to decrease, 39% said it would stay the same; 26.5% of storage managers believed they would increase utilisation of tape.

Oxford Archaeology's Puttick said use of disk systems meant his organisation was seeing decreased use of tape. "We have snapshotting and a document management system, which means that if a user accidentally deletes a file it's not gone forever," he said. "Tape is often there to deal with user failure, but that's not necessary now and it's starting to be used for what it's good for, disaster recovery rather than individual user-error rectification."

Marriott at Bradford Grammar School represents those users for whom third-party offsite backup is supplanting use of tape. "We're using less tape as we rely on backup via the Internet to a third-party data centre. We run one backup to tape a week now, whereas we used to run one every evening," he said.

For Claire's Accessories' Chevuru, the economic climate meant use of tape was likely to increase. "We're considering disk to disk, but in this economic climate there are other projects that must come first," he said. "We're happy that we're getting all our backups offsite every day with tape."

While most respondents (52%) planned no purchases of new tape libraries, 35% expected to buy between one and 10. A small number of users (13%) had plans to buy up to 100 new tape libraries. When asked which tape drive format storage managers expected to purchase, there was a relatively even split. LTO-4 came out on top with 22.5%, followed by LTO-1/2 (18.5%) and LTO-3 (17%). DLT was the format of choice for 12% of respondents.

Hewlett-Packard won as favoured vendor for tape systems, being the choice of 35% of those questioned. Dell was second with 21.5%, while IBM and Quantum each had 17.5% of respondents choosing them. Sony was the preferred vendor of 12% of those asked and Sun by 10%.

As was the case with disk, features rank low in buyers' considerations of tape products. Once again, being a supplier of other technology swung things for many users (28.5%), with technical support also a major consideration (20.5%). Price was the chief factor for 15.5%, followed by being a market leader (13%). Features of tape products was only an issue for 12% of respondents.

Disk-to-disk (D2D) backup and data deduplication

Disk caching is the most popular disk-based method of backing up data from production environments, with 45% of users citing it as the preferred option in their data centres. Continuous data protection (CDP) was in use by 19.5% of storage managers, while 13% were using virtual tape libraries (VTLs). Content-addressed storage (CAS) or WORM format was the choice of 9% of those questioned.

Data deduplication, despite the industry hype, is used by a mere 4% of respondents.

The bulk of those questioned who hadn't implemented disk-to-disk backup (32.5%) in their data centre cite tape as adequate for their uses. Twelve percent see using disk in backup as too expensive and 18% just aren't familiar enough with the technology.

"We're aware of data deduplication, but in my opinion its appeal lies in people comparing its price to that of the last storage solution they bought and thinking 'This is a bit cheaper,'" Oxford Archaeology's Puttick said. "And it does seem to offer lower costs, but I compare that to the value we got from spending about four grand on the Sun boxes. My impression also is that it's hard to implement."

For Claire's Accessories' Chevuru, economic constraints put a block on investment in data deduplication. "Data deduplication isn't on the agenda for us this year. Last year we looked at it, but in the current financial climate we're now thinking of it as something for the long term," he said.

But Colin Dash, IT manager at Ink Publishing, said dedupe was firmly on his business' purchasing strategy agenda. "We're just getting to look at it now after a period setting up dual [Dell] EqualLogic SANs with replication between them, and we think it'll work for us," he said. "I've no major concerns about deduplication as a technology. It looks like it can do a job for us as we're moving a lot of duplicate data between sites."

Of those who have or will implement disk-to-disk backup, the biggest pull factor is faster backups (37%). Faster restores are the draw for 19%, while 14% see disk to disk as easier to manage than tape and another 14% see it as more reliable. More than 35% of respondents said their spending on disk-to-disk systems would increase, while 33% reported that spending would remain the same. When it came to CDP products, 23.5% expected their spending to increase while 33% said it would remain the same.

Despite the low take up of data deduplication products, a significant number of respondents (30%) expected investment in that technology or other forms of single-instance storage to have increased through 2008. More than 25% expected spending to stay the same as the year before, while 10% expected it to decrease.

Respondents cited HP as their leading disk-based backup product supplier. Symantec/Revivio was second with 13%, while IBM/Diligent placed third with 10%. They were trailed by Quantum (5%), and then by Adaptec, EMC/Avamar and Sun who each received 3% of user responses.


Most users (61%) expected their backup spending to have remained the same in 2008 as the year before, while 28% expected it to increase and 11% expected it to drop.

Most respondents (80%) don't outsource any of their backups; of those who do, 10% outsource email and 10% outsource other applications, including databases.

The most popular backup vendor was Symantec (38%), followed by IBM/Tivoli (15%) and EMC (12%). CA placed fourth with 11%, trailed by HP (10%), CommVault (8%), Sun (5%) and NetApp (4%).

In contrast with other product categories, the most common criterion for selecting a backup product was features, with 27.5% of respondents basing their choice on product functionality. A backup vendor being the supplier of other products was the chief factor for 15.5% of those questioned. Being the market leader was the reason for selection by 15% of respondents, with price affecting 13%.

Disaster recovery

For 32% of respondents, spending on DR products and services remained the same as the year before. However, 41% said they were set to increase their spending. Only 15.5% had no plans to spend on disaster recovery, while 5.5% expected investment to decrease.

When asked what would be their primary item for disaster recovery spending, 31% said offsite tape; a similar number (29.5%) replied remote copy/replication. Slightly more than 18% expected to see an increase in spending on offsite tape purchases, 13% expected it to decrease and 43% believed it would stay the same.

A quarter of those surveyed expected spending on remote mirroring for disaster recovery to increase, while 21.5% expected investment to say the same. Forty percent of respondents had no plans in this regard.

Archiving, compliance and security

When asked about purchasing intentions on backup and archive systems for legal compliance, 33% of respondents reported having no plans, while 38% said their investment levels would stay the same as in 2007. A mere 15% expected their compliance budget to increase.

Claire's Accessories' Chevuru gave one reason why some aren't considering archiving projects. "We've thought about initiating an archiving project," he said. "We have some data that's three or four years old, but we don't ever use data that's more than one or two [years old]."

Tape was found to be the most common technology used to comply with data retention regulations, with 47% of respondents declaring it their medium of choice. Disk-based backup was the preferred option for 36%. Optical WORM (9%), virtual tape libraries (7%) and CAS/WORM (6%) were some way behind in terms of popularity.

The most commonly used type of data archiving product was for email (36%), with general file system archiving products close behind at 35%. Database archiving was used by 23.5% of those questioned followed by app-specific archivers (15%).

Most respondents (56%) had implemented no storage security measures. But 20% used encryption features in their backup apps, 10% used a security appliance, 9% had drive-level encryption and 6% encrypted at the array.

Storage management software

Nearly a third (29.5%) of storage managers expected their spending on storage management software to increase, but 25% had no plans and 30% expected it to remain the same. Most of those not expecting to invest (53%) said they had all they needed, but 29% said they lacked the budget to do so. A small number (11%) said they used the storage management software bundled with their hardware.

The most common reason for investment in storage management software was to manage more storage with the same staff, with that driver cited by 42.5% of respondents. Other reasons given were to manage existing storage with fewer staff (14%), decrease storage growth (6%), and to gain basic reporting and auditing (5%).

The most popular storage management vendor among respondents was Symantec, with 25% of those questioned having bought their products or intending to. HP came in a close second (23.5%). CA and IBM were tied for third place with 12% each, while Hitachi Data Systems was the choice for 5%. NetApp and Sun each had 3.5%.

The largest number of respondents said they chose their storage management software vendor on the basis that they already supplied other software (27%). Features were the key factor for 19% of those questioned, while being market leader was the key influencer for 15%. Technical support it was the deciding factor for 12% of respondents.

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