DAS Lives!

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Nov 1, 2006


Direct Attached Storage (DAS) was supposed to be on its last legs by now. After more than a decade of steady encroachment by storage area networks (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS), the DAS market has taken quite a hit.

Contrary to predictions, direct-attached storage remains alive and well within many enterprises.

Yet the decline of DAS has been slower than expected, and vendors continue to release DAS offerings. According to analyst firm International Data Corp (IDC) of Framingham, Mass., revenue projections for DAS are in excess of $4 billion for 2007. By the end of 2008, IDC predicts the DAS market will continue to be larger than the NAS market.

Those vendors that spurned DAS in favor of NAS or SAN, then, may have been premature. Although a few giants heavily dominant the NAS and SAN space, there is plenty of room in DAS outside of the likes of EMC, NetApp, IBM and HP.

Take the case of NEC Corporation of America. While it offers plenty of products to serve the SAN space, it hasn’t forgotten its DAS roots.

"We can address both the SAN and DAS markets with storage products that meet the needs of our customers," says Matt Wolken, director of enterprise storage solutions, NEC Corporation of America. "The reason we address the DAS market is that our customers want a choice in deployment of their storage infrastructure."

Not all storage, he says, is used in a SAN environment. Plenty of customers continue to want high availability and performance DAS without incurring the cost overhead of a full SAN deployment.

Who tends to buy DAS from NEC and why? Not surprisingly, small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) with relatively few servers are among the principal buyers. In addition, customers, both large and small, with single-threaded apps prefer DAS. While they don’t require the sophistication (and complexity) of a SAN, they need high availability and performance. Thus, NEC offers several products in this category. Each can function as DAS or SAN.

Known as the S-Series, NEC manufactures three models:

  • The S1500 entry-level model can store from 220 Gigabytes to 27 Terabytes.
  • The S2500 is more scalable, ranging from 292 Gigabytes up to 48 Terabytes.
  • The S2900 also starts at 292 Gigabytes but reaches up as high as 108 Terabytes.

S-Series units share certain common features such as 4Gbps host interfaces, RAID-6 double parity, self diagnosing and healing disk, tiered storage, large cache, virtual capacity management, business continuity software and fully redundant and hot-swappable components. NEC S-Series prices start at $16,850.

"Each product is designed to offer full availability, high performance and business continuity," says Wolken.

He says that determining the appropriate solution for a particular customer centers around an understanding of the degree of scalability that is required. The S1500, for example, can scale from three to 60 disk drives. It tends to fit best in a workgroup or small business environment. The S2500, on the other hand, can scale from four to 120 disk drives. It is aimed more at departmental-level and midsize businesses. Lastly, the S2900 can scale from four to 240 disk drives. It is better suited for large business or smaller enterprise applications.

"Our customers use NEC storage for a wide variety of applications, including database, CRM, data warehousing, data mining, transaction processing and many other high bandwidth environments," says Wolken.

That'll Be the DAS

We've come a long way since IBM announced the first commercial disk drive in 1956. The RAMAC 350 was a grand 5 MB in size and consisted of 50 24-inch platters. It was available at the bargain price of $7,800 per MB. Now consumers buy computers in supermarkets with 50 GB-plus disk drives.

"The average amount of data managed by an administrator these days is over 50 TB," says Fred Moore, an analyst at Horison Information Strategies of Boulder, CO. "But despite the necessity to manage such data via a SAN or NAS structure, there is still a huge amount of DAS out there. Many people believe that DAS is being held up by home users. But that is not the case at all. The DAS statistics remain high due to heavy use by mainline business users.

According to IDC, the retail sector has more than 50 percent of its data on DAS. The utility, banking, process manufacturers, financial services and transportation fields, on the other hand, keep a mere 40 to 50 percent of their total data on DAS.

This article was originally published on Enterprise IT Planet.

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