NAS and SAN Storage Market Trends

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NAS and SAN Storage
Market Trends

by Faulkner Staff

Docid: 00021140

Publication Date: 2201

Report Type: MARKET


Storage area networks (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) allow
companies to store large amounts of data for archival or backup purposes.
The two systems basically perform the same function, but there are
differences in the protocols they use, the cost and ease of implementation,
and their management and scalability. This report compares SAN and NAS systems as
well as the market leaders and the trends that are driving the market.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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Storage area networks (SANs) and network attached storage (NAS) are
business-class storage solutions that allow companies to archive and back
up large amounts of data. The two systems basically perform the same
function, but there are differences in the protocols they use, cost, ease
of implementation, management, and scalability.

Related Faulkner Reports
Network Attached Storage Tutorial
Storage Area Networks Tutorial

The market for these services is increasing as companies produce more
data and are required to retain information longer to meet regulatory
requirements. The main vendors for SAN and NAS systems include many
familiar names: Dell EMC, HPE, Hitachi Vantara, IBM, and NetApp.

The biggest trends shaping the SAN and NAS market are tied to advances in
technology. Faster networking technologies are improving performance, and
manufacturers are driving convergence between the two storage solutions.
Solid state drives are also showing up in enterprise storage solutions.
This technology offers a huge performance boost, it is more expensive. As
a result, many companies interested in using solid state drives are using
hybrid solutions that combine them with traditional storage arrays.

Current View

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Storage area networks (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) offer
alternatives to traditional direct attached storage (DAS), or storage
directly attached to the computer accessing it, as illustrated in Figure

Figure 1. DAS Vs. NAS Vs. SAN

Figure 1. DAS Vs. NAS Vs. SAN

Source: Wikimedia Commons

SAN and NAS are similar in their capabilities as viable storage
architectures in the enterprise. Both typically use a disk array that is
connected to a corporate network and is backed up regularly. The biggest
difference is the fact that a SAN is made up of multiple devices, while a
NAS is typically a single device. There is also a big difference in how
they are connected. SAN uses Fibre Channel, while NAS uses TCP/IP
networks, including Ethernet or ATM.

Storage Attached Networks

SAN is a storage solution where one or more storage devices are connected
to a server in a way that they appear to be directly attached to an
operating system. There is no limit to the number of optical jukeboxes,
tape libraries, or disk arrays that can be included in a storage area
network. Just as a LAN can be used to connect clients to servers, a
SAN can be used to connect servers to storage, servers to each other, and
storage to storage. SANs are very well suited for data-intensive
environments such as video editing, pre-press, OLTP, data warehousing,
storage management, and server clustering applications. They are also very
useful for backing up data.

Network Attached Storage

NAS, on the other hand, is essentially a small, special-purpose server
that is optimized for file sharing. It uses file-based protocols such as
NFS or SMB/CIFS to transfer files. When a file is retrieved, a computer
requests a portion of an abstract file instead of an entire disk
block. NAS is a great option for file storage and sharing, active
archives, big data, and virtualization. 

Benefits and Comparison

Some of the major benefits of using a SAN or NAS in the enterprise over
direct attached storage are:

  • Simple to implement and manage – SAN and NAS
    solutions are easy to implement and administer.
  • Ability to share information and resources – With
    network storage, companies can implement a single set of servers for the
    entire enterprise to share. This type of centralized architecture also
    allows companies to share information easily.
  • Highly scalable – Storage based networks are easy to

The following table compares some of the features and functions of SAN
and NAS systems.

Table 1. Comparison of NAS and SAN
Feature NAS SAN
Architecture Typically one device acting as a remote
file server
Multiple devices interconnected as a
File Sharing Methodology File I/O Block I/O
Data Speed1 Speed dependent on local TCP/IP Ethernet network, typically 1GbE
to 10GbE, and affected by the number of other users accessing the
storage at the same time.
High speed using Fibre Channel, most commonly available in 16
Gb/s to 32 Gb/s

Fibre Channel can be delivered via high speed Ethernet such as
10Gb or 40Gb+ networks using protocols such as FCoE and iSCSI

I/O Protocols SMB/CIFS, NFS, SFTP, and WebDAV Fibre Channel, iSCSI, FCoE
Data Storage Data is retrieved and transferred by
Data is retrieved and transferred by
disk blocks
Ease of Administration Centralized management so they are easy
to administer
More difficult to manage
Scalability Most NAS devices are not highly
scalable. High-end NAS systems can scale to petabytes using
Businesses can scale the size of a SAN
by adding more devices.
Backup Backup and mirroring is done on files,
not blocks.
Back up and mirrors are done on all disk
blocks, even if they do not contain any files.
Security Less secure; security is implemented at
the file system level
More secure; uses logical unit security
and zoning.
Installation Generally plug and play More complex implementation
Cost Less expensive More expensive – High initial costs, but
it is cheaper to add storage to the network.

Market Leaders

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The leaders in the NAS and SAN market space are:

  • Dell EMC
  • Hitachi Vantara
  • HP Enterprise (HPE)
  • IBM
  • NetApp

Representative product/solution offerings include the following:

Dell EMC PowerMax

Built for mission-critical applications, the Dell EMC PowerMax family
uses an end-to-end NonVolatile Memory Express (NVMe) architecture for
customer data. NVMe is a set of standards which define a PCI Express
(PCIe) interface used to efficiently access data storage volumes based on
Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) media, which includes NAND-based flash along
with higher-performing Storage Class Memory (SCM) media technologies.
PowerMax offers proven 6 9s availability, and end-to-end encryption for
maximum data security.

Hitachi NAS Platform 5000

The new Hitachi NAS Platform 5000 series offers an accelerated file
system that dramatically improves customers’ return on investment for
enterprise scale-out filing system needs. The 5000 series features dedupe
and compression capabilities designed to manage data growth while
controlling costs. Easy to use, the 5000 provides tools sets for system
set ups, provisioning, configuration and device management, workflow
automation, and overall system management.

HPE MSA 2052 SAN Storage

The HPE MSA 2052 SAN Storage is a hybrid flash system designed for
affordable application acceleration for small and remote office
deployments. Clients can start with 1.6 TB of flash capacity and scale as
needed with any combination of solid state disks (SSD), high-performance
enterprise, or lower-cost midline SAS-based drives. The HPE MSA 2052 SAN
Storage has been the industry-leading entry storage Fibre Channel (FC)
platform for a number of years, with nearly 500,000 systems sold


IBM SAN solutions range from tiered, cost-optimized storage, policy-based
automation, and intelligent data management systems to full portfolios of
storage networking solutions that suit customers’ budget and
infrastructure requirements. IBM b-type networking helps maintain the high
data transfer performance required for backup and restore operations,
while also protecting and securing data in flight and at rest.


The NetApp AFF All SAN Array (ASA) delivers a simplified and dedicated
SAN experience that provides continuous data availability for enterprise
mission critical databases and other SAN workloads via FCP or iSCSI
protocol. The ASA features a symmetric active-active controller
architecture to ensure continuous data access during planned and unplanned
outages, including upgrades and maintenance. In addition, the ASA offers data services
integration with Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft SQL Server databases, plus
VMware and other leading hypervisors.

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Increased SAN/NAS Spending

Both the storage area network and network attached storage markets are
expected to expand over the next few years.

  • The SAN market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate
    (CAGR) of 3.5 percent for the period 2020 to 2027.2
  • Even more optimistically, the NAS market is forecast to grow at a CAGR
    of 19.5 percent for the period 2021 to 2026.3

SAN Growth Factors

The principal factors affecting SAN growth are:

  • Increasing adoption by small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs)

    – The benefits of shared storage, centralized control, and flexible
    operation have made SANs attractive to organizations that may lack a
    large and experienced IT staff.

  • Increasing demands for fast, secure, and reliable backup operations

    – As Coherent Market Insights observes, SAN “enables smooth data
    movement without using critical server CPU or I/O resources. The
    efficacy of the SAN and its server-less backup features is increasing
    the demand for SAN across various sectors.”4

NAS Growth Factors

The principal factors affecting NAS growth are:

  • Increasing demands for cloud-based solutions to accommodate the
    remote work explosion occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic

    – As
    ResearchAndMarkets explains, the pandemic has “acted as a catalyst for
    the growth of data usage. Enterprises across various end-user
    industries, especially telecom companies across emerging nations, have
    witnessed a surge in data usage due to lockdowns imposed by the
    governments. In such times, organizations are seeking an established and
    secured data storage solution.”

  • Increasing demands for data storage due to rapidly accumulating
    unstructured data

    – “It is estimated that more than 80 percent of
    midmarket and enterprise organizations are using NAS for some tier of
    storage in exceeding capacity when compared to other storage types, such
    as DAS [and SAN]. The major factors driving the market include –
    explosion in unstructured data, increasing the footprint of scale-out
    NAS in enterprise IT systems, and focus on network virtualization and
    software-defined NAS.”5

Cloud Adoption Influence

While the SAN and NAS markets should remain healthy, if not vigorous, the
overall IT trend of moving applications and operations to the cloud may
hinder overall market growth. This effect may be mitigated, however, since
“the integration of on-premise NAS with cloud storage is expected to gain
traction in the future, facilitating total control over the data in the
NAS and in backing up and archiving data in the cloud.”6

Strategic Planning Implications

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Companies that are considering whether to invest in a NAS or SAN for
their storage needs should consider the following areas:


Companies who are looking at implementing a SAN or NAS
should look at the total cost of ownership when deciding which technology
to implement instead of just focusing on the initial equipment purchase.


Businesses looking to implement a storage solution should look down the
road at their long-term needs when picking a technology. Storage area
networks are more scalable than network attached storage, but the cost and
challenges associated with managing them might outweigh the scalability.

Ease of Installation and Management

Companies with small IT staffs may want to look at how easily they can
install their storage devices. As mentioned earlier in this report,
storage area networks are not plug-and-play technologies. Furthermore,
SANs are more difficult to manage than network attached storage; using a
heterogeneous SAN made up of products from multiple vendors can present
compatibility problems that affect performance and reliability.


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1 Skip Levens. “What’s the Diff: NAS vs. SAN.” Backblaze. January 14, 2021.

2 “Global Storage Area Network (SAN) Market is Estimated to
Account for US$ 23,471.83 Mn by End of 2027, Says Coherent Market Insights
(CMI).” Coherent Market Insights. March 25, 2021.

3 “Global Network Attached Storage (NAS) Market Analytics
2021-2026 – Increasing Adoption of the Cloud Is Hindering Market Growth –” December 9, 2021.

4 “Global Storage Area Network (SAN) Market Is Estimated to
Account for US$ 23,471.83 Mn by End of 2027, Says Coherent Market Insights
(CMI).” Coherent Market Insights. March 25, 2021.

5 “Global Network Attached Storage (NAS) Market Analytics
2021-2026 – Increasing Adoption of the Cloud Is Hindering Market Growth –” December 9, 2021.

6 Ibid.

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