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Issue of January 2004 

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SANs in Indian companies

‘Indian SAN market is maturing’

When it comes to SAN implementations, the Indian enterprise ranks at par with the global best. A discussion with James LaLonde, Vice President, Worldwide Sales, Brocade Communication Systems, about the latest trends in the Indian SAN scenario.

Anil Patrick R

What is the current state of SAN adoption in India?

SAN adoption is happening on a major scale in India. Three years ago, not too many enterprises knew what a SAN was, and the vendor had to explain what it was. And it was difficult to explain the concept at that time.

But things changed once the CIOs learned about this technology. They started deploying SANs very rapidly since then. What we have observed is that within the last two years most of the top 100 enterprise IT users in India have deployed SANs.

Although Indian enterprises started later than the rest of the world, the time between becoming aware of SANs and deployment was very rapid.

I was pleasantly surprised on my trip earlier this year. Not only are Indian enterprises deploying SANs, but also performing quite advanced disaster recovery solutions. Places like Chennai are becoming disaster recovery centers for other sites. These places have very advanced infrastructures.

How is the SAN market evolving in India?

The interesting thing about the Indian SAN market is that it is maturing fast even though it is new compared to the rest of the world. This means that the SAN market is segmented. If you look at India, most large enterprises are already using SANs or planning to get them. So, in the enterprise space SANs have very good usage and market share.

Right now, the hot new SAN market is that of entry-level companies. It's interesting to observe that the needs of the mid-range and large enterprise are quite similar.

The only difference is that the large enterprises need to develop on aspects like higher availability, mainframe connectivity, and higher security. But the general needs are the same.

However, at the entry level, factors like simplicity are important. So SAN vendors are adding features like setup wizards. Other than this, factors like pricing and packaging play an important role in selection.

Customers in the entry-level space prefer to buy a single solution for functions like e-mail, CRM, and accounting applications. In this scenario, a SAN is more attractive to users as a bundle. So these companies look at storage arrays, servers, cards, and switches, all from a single vendor. This is an interesting trend that we are witnessing in India.

A trend in the mid-range market in India and China is that entry-level bundles and packages will also be used by companies in the mid-range space.

Blade servers are being increasingly adopted among large enterprises now. This means that they are not necessarily entry-level strategy now. This is where we will see new product offerings for the typical entry-level customers.

Earlier, entry-level customers would typically buy a server with storage in it. But they get into a tight spot when they run out of space after a period of time.

This is why they are likely to become a customer for bundled type of storage solution.

Customers now have many vendors offering bundles with storage. The advantage with such solutions is that the storage is fiber channel-enabled, completely modular, and scalable. This is a very attractive proposition for most customers.

What do you think is the next thing to happen to Indian corporate SANs considering the level of sophistication they have reached?

In the SAN market, there are two things that have to be done on the high-end space. The first thing is that, the companies who are already using SANs need to secure their SANs since security is becoming a big issue. The second thing is to help these customers better manage SANs.

If you look at new requirements from SAN customers, there are many. One is the consolidation path where it is possible to actually improve utilization of computing resources, centralize management, and reduce the cost of ownership.

A company may choose to put SANs to do a backup chore and another SAN as infrastructure for applications like ERP. In such cases they end up having several islands of SANs. There are several consolidation schemes and utilization techniques available to help them get more out of their SANs. There needs to be higher growth in the low-end or mid-range space.

What is your opinion about new trends like Utility Computing and Information Lifecycle Management?

Earlier, it was evangelization of SANs. At present, the popular technology is Utility Computing and Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). It is not possible to do either without a SAN in place.

For example, there might be need for a particular data to be online and available 24x7. But those particular e-mails or records will have to be archived in less expensive storage over time.

SANs are in the middle of both the trends. So if you are working on a SAN solution and you have to move the data to the organization based on its applicability and its age, you need SANs. If you need to deploy new applications or provision storage on the fly, you need a SAN. As you can see, SANs are integral components.

This is where we see intelligence moving into the network. With intelligence in the network it is possible to keep a mirror copy or a snapshot of the data transparently at line speeds.

Personally, I feel that even though the Indian market has caught up very quickly, a lot of deployment in the area of SANs happens in the US and Europe much before it happens here. Year 2004 is going to be the time when people are going to talk about ILM, with very early steps happening. But till 2005, the smoke won't clear on all this. It is still a developing concept.

Anil Patrick R can be reached at

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