5 Technologies to Watch (cont.)
Storage Area Networks
Too many times, industry observers have forecast the year of the storage area network (SAN). And once again, for 2006 the media is waving the SAN banner in the midmarket. Ah, we detect some skepticism. But consider why SANs' time has come: Digital data keeps growing, and SAN prices keep coming down.
The runaway growth of digital information continues to drive the SAN market -- and mow down the competition. Steve Duplessie, a senior analyst at Milford, Mass.-based research firm Enterprise Strategy Group, says that traditional direct-attached storage is "hard, expensive and just plain dumb" given its cost and complexity.
A SAN, on the other hand, is a high-speed network that routes data to storage devices according to customized rules. This setup overcomes geographic limitations (the devices can be located anywhere) and offers other benefits. For example, a SAN that funnels backup to a remote site can satisfy one requirement of a disaster recovery plan.
Today, prices are reasonable. Vendors such as QLogic offer basic SAN infrastructures -- essentially starter kits -- for less than $5,000, and fully redundant configurations start at roughly $7,000. "That is the kind of price point that will jump-start a market," Duplessie says.
In addition, SANs that use IP networks rather than older Fibre Channel technology make deployment easier.
All this evidence points to growing adoption among enterprises with limited IT resources. William Gregory, CIO at Hogan & Hartson LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm with annual revenues of more than $550 million and 1,000-plus lawyers, is now on board. "We're putting up SANs to handle the volume of information," he says. "We're talking terabytes, and I know from talking with my peers that we're not alone."
Web services are poised to make a midmarket splash next year, but not necessarily as an underpinning for a true service-oriented architecture (SOA). AMR Research Inc. analyst Eric Austvold predicts SOAs will remain the purview of "ultrasophisticated IT organizations" in 2006.
For more mainstream IT shops, Web services are the way to integrate newer technology with legacy systems. That will be the case at American Community Mutual Insurance Co. of Livonia, Mich. Lynn Phillips, CIO at the $370-million insurer, says, "We've always been mostly mainframe-based; we're making the move to more of a mid-tier-based [structure], and a lot of Web services connections need to be developed."
Yet SOA adoption is on the rise. In a September 2005 AMR Research survey, 33% of 134 U.S. companies with more than 1,000 employees say they plan to deploy SOA in 2006. Yet to date, only 21% of respondents say they have deployed SOA. Seven out of 10 are using Web services in those deployments.
This was first published in December 2005