Last year saw serial ATA (SATA) drives and products pour onto the market in a gathering flood. IP SANS are in a similar situation with product availability broadening rapidly. (See a 6-supplier group test here.) Intransa has just announced its IP2000 giving it a neatly delineated 4-product line-up:-

- IP7500 with up to 51.2TB raw capacity
- IP5500 with up to 25.6TB capacity
- IP3000 with a maximum of 12.8TB
- IP2000 - the new product with a maximum capacity of 6TB.

The IP2000 offers RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10, ending the RAID 5 lack mentioned in the group test above.

Arun Taneja, the founder and consulting analyst of the Taneja Group storage research organisation, expects that by 2008, small and medium businesses (SMB) that use direct-attached disk (DAS) on their servers will fall from 85 percent today to 50 percent. The majority of this fall, 30 percent Taneja thinks, will be accounted for by iSCSI SANs. That's a lot of storage.

The thinking is that SMBs now have multiple servers and the administration of all the separate DAS islands is becoming time-consuming, tedious and costly. The SBs need the servers, indeed, they can't do without them, but provisioning and managing all the storage is becoming more and more complex.

Storage consolidation must start looking highly attractive. Put all the DAS in one place and use the LAN to get to it. NetApp, EqualLogic, Intransa and Left Hand Networks are all poised to benefit from this. As long as the SMB people perceive IP SANs to be as practical as NAS filers then the market could boom. It won't eat into Fibre Channel sales but it will provide a ceiling under which Fibre Channel will have a hard time.

For Intransa the next step might be a bigger box, a 100TB unit say, an IP9000 possibly. But what it will also be doing is building out the storage management and application infrastructure layered on top of its four products. Information Lifecycle Management concerns are a long way away from the SMB business' radar screen but it will appear eventually and suppliers like Intransa will like to have it ready to add to software modules that already do various data protection and disk volume provisioning tasks. There's also the small matter of adding 10Gbit/s Ethernet capability.

Standards are also going to climb up the attention ladder. And then there is Microsoft - slow to jump but deadly and determined when it does. Will we have a Microsoft IP SAN version of Storage Server by the end of the year? Don't bet too hard against it.