European storage budgets still down; disk storage systems are biggest spend

The results of our Purchasing Intentions survey show how storage budgets have shrunk, with most spent on disk systems; and more.

UK and European storage budgets have shrunk for the second year running, but significant amounts of money are still being spent. And the largest portion of storage spending goes on disk storage systems and new disk capacity, with an average of 31.5 TB added by users this year.

Reflecting the pressure on storage budgets, price is now the key purchase criterion for disk storage system products, while perceptions of high cost have limited solid-state storage take-up. Meanwhile, Fibre Channel deployments have increased in prevalence, especially for virtual server environments. And HP is still the most frequently cited vendor for disk systems among our survey respondents, with IBM in second place and EMC third.

Those are some of the findings from the first part of the 2011 European storage Purchasing Intentions survey, which asked 302 storage professionals representing businesses with an average annual revenue of £896 million about their storage budgets and spending intentions.

The survey results are split into three parts–budgets and disk systems, backup, and the rest. This is the section of the survey report dealing with budgets and disk storage systems. Read on for details on our findings. (For information on how the survey was conducted, see “About the 2011 storage Purchasing Intentions survey.”)

Storage budgets

Last year storage budgets shrank in the recessionary environment, and this year has proved to be just the same.

Storage budgets decreased on average by 1.5% this year and 1.7% in 2010. This year and last contrast with 2008, when budgets rose on average by 1.5%.

Behind those averages, one fifth (21%) of respondents saw their storage budgets decrease by more than 10% this year, almost exactly the same as in 2010. That’s in contrast with 2008, when only 10% of those questioned suffered such budgetary shrinkage.

But it’s not doom and gloom all round. The largest number of those questioned (28%) saw no change in their budgets in 2011 compared with 2010, while others have seen increases. This year 9% of respondents saw their budget increase by between 5% and 10% while 10% saw it grow by more than 10%. Those results are almost in line with 2008’s findings.

So, what does it all get spent on? We asked those we surveyed to tell us the percentages spent on different types of storage items, and the results are within a percentage point or two of those in 2010. The biggest spend is on disk hardware (including solid-state storage), at 34% of total spend. The next biggest cost is staff, at 16%, and after that comes maintenance fees (12%), storage software (11%), switches and storage networking hardware (9%), professional services (9%) and removable media (9%).

Disk storage systems readers will install about the same amount of new disk capacity this year (31.5 TB) as they did last year (32 TB). These levels represent an increase on the 2008 figure of 27 TB.

The single biggest disk storage system budget item (26%) is additional hard drives for existing storage subsystems. In our previous surveys, “additional hard drives” was the single biggest disk system budget item, but at higher percentages: 44% in 2008 and 37% in 2010.

The next largest chunks of budget are spent on new Fibre Channel, NAS and iSCSI storage arrays, each of which account for about 15% of disk systems budget.

Spending for unified storage arrays swallows up 11.5% of storage subsystem budget this year, a healthy increase over the 6% it garnered in 2008.

Drive types

Of all storage system types, Fibre Channel is the one that’s noticeably increasing in prevalence, according to our surveys. A total of 55.5% of respondents report having some Fibre Channel deployed this year, up slightly on last year’s 51%, which in turn was a substantial increase on the 2008 survey results, when only 36% reported running Fibre Channel SANs.

The increasing prevalence of Fibre Channel may reflect its popularity as storage for virtual server and desktop environments.

The most common storage type overall, however, is NAS with 65.5% of respondents having some file-level networked storage installed. The figure for NAS has fluctuated a little over the past three years but stayed roughly similar. Last year, 58% of respondents reported its presence compared with 67% in 2008.

Meanwhile, iSCSI and unified storage array deployments seem to have plateaued after significant increases in 2010. This year iSCSI arrays account for 41% of block-access storage deployed. That’s the same as last year, with 27% in 2008. Unified storage (block- and file-level access) is currently deployed by 30% of those questioned in 2011. The corresponding figure in 2010 was 32%, with 18% in 2008.

Midrange arrays most popular

Thirty-four percent of survey respondents report that they will have bought midrange storage arrays (such as EMC Clariion CX, HP EVA and IBM DS4000/DS6000) in 2011. Such systems have been the most popular throughout the three years of our surveys, although the percentage has fluctuated, with 43% opting for the midrange last year and 37% in 2008.

Low-end systems (such as Serial ATA arrays or SCSI JBODs) are the next most popular (32.5%) in 2011. And high-end systems (such as EMC Symmetrix, HDS VSP/USP and IBM DS8000) take up the rear in 2011, with 20% of respondents saying they will buy them this year.

These results make sense given product feature changes in recent years. Midrange arrays keep creeping up into enterprise space, with very high capacities; most of the “enterprise” features, like snapshots, replication; and dual controllers. And they’re also extending down into the low-end space, with characteristics such as easy SAN-in-can implementations and lower prices for higher-performing arrays.


Solid-state storage shows a steady gain in deployments, but its price and respondents’ ability to make do with existing disk systems are limiting its adoption, again possibly reflecting tight economic circumstances.

Just under one fifth (19%) of respondents in 2011 have deployed solid-state, which is an increase on the 2010 figure of 13% and up again on the 2009 figure of 8.5%. A shade under 30% are evaluating solid-state in 2011, the same number as last year, and 6% say they plan to implement it this year.

Where respondents have implemented solid-state has shifted from last year, with drops in laptop/desktop and storage array deployments but gains in servers deployments and caching appliances.

Disk system vendor choice: HP still top

So, which disk system vendor have survey respondents bought from or plan to buy from in 2011? The same one as in 2010, and there’s not much change overall, although price is now the key purchasing criterion in the difficult economic conditions.

We asked who respondents had purchased from or intended to purchase from in 2011; HP/LeftHand/3PAR was cited by 33% of European readers of

At least some of the credit of HP’s No. 1 spot goes to the fact that it’s a soup-to-nuts vendor, which is appealing to midsized companies that don’t have the manpower and other resources to deal with multiple vendors and that can get decent discounts if they do all (or much of) their IT spending in one place.

Next in the disk vendor chart is IBM, retaining second place and favoured by 24% of respondents. EMC moved up from last year’s score of 20% to 24%, possibly with the acquisition of Isilon.

Acquisitions don’t seem to have helped Dell/EqualLogic/Compellent among survey respondents, however; it’s cited by 19% of survey respondents  (20% in 2010). NetApp is close behind at 18% (20% in 2010) and is a long-term climber (11% in 2008) while Adaptec, HDS and Oracle/Sun all come in at about the 11% mark.

The reason our readers choose the vendors they do has altered significantly from 2010. Price is now the key factor for the largest number (28.5%, up from 14% in 2010) in choosing a primary disk system vendor in 2011, and that’s likely a reflection of the recessionary environment we’re in.


Most people (69.5%) haven’t deployed or don’t plan to deploy an iSCSI SAN in 2011, but of those that have or will the software initiator method is most popular (19.5%) while a dedicated hardware adapter such as a TOE card is the second most used method (11%).

We asked readers what they use their iSCSI SANs for; the most popular usage is for backup (61%), followed by end user storage (57%). More than half (54.5%) said they use iSCSI for mission critical apps and 50% use it for email. We asked those who said they wouldn’t be deploying iSCSI in 2011 to tell us why and the biggest number (31%) of refuseniks said they just didn’t need the additional storage.

Storage and virtual server environments

The vast bulk of respondents (85%) now have virtualised servers. That’s a fraction up on 2010, when 82% responded positively to the same question. That, however, was a significant increase from 2008 when only 65% had virtualised their server estate.

We asked respondents what type of storage they use to support virtualised server environments; Fibre Channel SANs is the most popular, with 40% of those questioned in 2011 using them. Fibre Channel makes sense here: Cramming a bunch of VMs into a single physical server typically requires higher-performing storage and also because the FC systems are legacy units that had been serving physical servers and are now recommissioned for VM use.

iSCSI SANs and direct-attached storage are the next most popular with 17% of respondents using each of them. iSCSI still not getting a relatively small share because many users think it may lack the performance necessary to service a bunch of physical servers filled with VMs.

NAS is the least popular option, with just under 10.5% of those questioned using it for VM storage. Users are just beginning to understand that NAS is good alternative, but VMware still only supports NFS, which may be a limiting factor.

Read more on Storage management and strategy