Originating Author: Dave Vellante
Over the past fifteen years, storage consolidation has been one of the primary drivers of storage economics. Initially, with big-box approaches popularized by EMC's Symmetrix subsystem in the 1990's and more recently storage area network technologies in the first half of the 2000's. Consolidating storage has succeeded in increasing storage utilization, improving backup and recovery procedures (and consequently application availability) and providing more flexibility in IT infrastructure deployment.
We note that many of the more well-publicized economic successes in storage consolidation, which demonstrated 25% - 60% reduction in storage spending, have been in areas where storage was a major expense and an area of risk for application growth. These often tended to be workloads that were expensive to manage (e.g. required lots of people), such as large online transaction processing where accurately predicting storage spending was a major source of IT budget contention.
It happens to be the case that workloads targeted for NAS have been much simpler to manage, typified by file-oriented storage and unstructured data that are generally stateless. These less mission critical applications historically required less rigor in terms of performance, backup and recovery attributes and less people to manage. As a result, consolidating these workloads will not necessarily bring the same hard dollar economic benefits as SAN consolidation demonstrated. Hence the dilemma-- While consolidating NAS in these areas will provide better utilization and certainly simplification of management, consolidating a less expensive problem will take out fewer IT dollars.
The real drivers of NAS consolidation are the need to bring largely distibuted NAS infrastructures under a single management discipline to help reduce corporate risk and provide better productivity for users requiring access to a growing mountain of unstructured data and integrating stateless information into a broader information management strategy.
Action Item: The value proposition of NAS consolidations is not a carbon copy of SAN. Vendors and buyers must re-think the economic value justification of NAS consolidations and not simply try to mirror the successes of block-oriented storage consolidations. A greater emphasis on never-delete retention policies, provenance, data classification and the long-term value of information should drive vendor roadmaps in this growing and important market space.