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Europe's SAN avoidance strategy

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Storage Expo Americans might love SANs, but Europeans are happier consolidating their storage without them, according to speakers at today's Storage Expo in London.

"We didn't want a SAN," says Martin Cooper, the global IT operations managers for Arup, explaining why he'd chosen to replace 280 file and print servers with 32TB of network-attached storage from Network Appliance. "We wanted something that just did what it was there to do, and we liked the appliance approach."

The idea of a SAN comes too soon after a stack of other investments that organisations have made, says Paul Middlebrook, the head of London IT infrastructure for Barings Asset Management - another NetApp user.

"A lot of people are building up SANs and they're very nice networks," he says. "But they already had very nice networks from the 1990s, so why build another one?"

These reactions are not unusual, and don't just apply to NAS buyers, reckons David Scott, president and CEO of 3Par, a relatively young company whose big Fibre Channel-attached storage boxes go up against the likes of the HDS Lightning and IBM Shark.

"We see a lot of people in Europe who are interested in SAN avoidance when they consolidate their storage, because the view it as an extra level of complexity," he says.

He reckons his customers, as well as those of EMC, HDS and IBM, have realised that buying a big box - 3Par's can scale to 192 Fibre Channel ports, 128 of which can be used for server connections - means they can take out a whole layer of management and technology.

"Virtualisation means they can also avoid buying volume management software for Linux," he adds. "That's another purchase and another layer of complexity taken out. By comparison, a lot more US companies already have a SAN and are consolidating in that context."

So has the SAN message failed to catch on, even though more and more storage is located in the network? Perhaps so, says IDC's European storage programme director Claus Egge.

"Over the last couple of years, only a third of the people we've asked have said yes to owning a SAN, so we haven't seen a big swing in favour," he says. ®

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