China is set to become Asia's hotspot for storage area network (SAN) projects as industries boost investment in strategic systems redundancy and business continuity technologies. According to Brocade Communications Systems chairman and chief executive Greg Reyes, China's admission into the World Trade Organisation will make companies compete by using SANs for storing, managing, administering and providing access to an increasing amount of business-critical data. 'With the Government's commitment to developing its strategic infrastructure, China will become one of the fastest-growing markets for SANs in the region and make up 10 per cent of the Asian market for Brocade over the short-term,' he said. 'The Asia-Pacific market accounts for about 15 per cent of Brocade's sales worldwide. With the expected growth in China, we see the region making up 20 to 25 per cent of total business within a few years.' A SAN links computing devices to disk or tape arrays and other storage devices over fibre-channel technology, which transmits data between computers at up to one gigabit per second. SANs support disk mirroring, back-up and restore, archiving and retrieval of data, movement of data from one storage device to another, and the sharing of data among servers in a corporate network. Founded in 1995, Silicon Valley-based Brocade is a leading vendor of networking switches and software designed to optimise data availability and storage, server, and personnel resources in enterprises. Its main market rivals include QLogic, McData and Inrange. 'In markets such as China, where IT infrastructure is being built out, companies and government agencies have the opportunity to base storage infrastructure on a networking model to eliminate the scalability and management limitations of a traditional direct-attached storage model. A reliable, scalable, secure and manageable platform for networking storage is a strategic part of enterprise IT infrastructure, and Brocade is committed to expanding SAN expertise and resources for our regional partners and their customers,' Mr Reyes said. Gartner's Dataquest unit estimated the global market for SAN infrastructure would reach nearly US$17 billion by 2005 and about 72 per cent of external storage systems sold worldwide - representing about 4,000 petabytes of data storage capacity - would be SAN-attached by 2005. James LaLonde, Brocade vice-president for Asia-Pacific operations, said data-intensive sectors in China where SANs were expected to thrive included government, telecommunications, finance, utilities and manufacturing. Brocade opens its Beijing office today, following investment during the past 10 months to build the company's presence in Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Sydney and Tokyo. 'Brocade will focus on meeting the increasingly complex storage demands driven by an expanding Chinese economy, facilitating technology-skill transfer to the local market, and expanding support services to Brocade partners and their customers in the mainland,' Mr LaLonde said. He said the challenge for companies in China and other Asian markets, was keeping pace with data growth, while reducing costs of storage environments. According to a KPMG Consulting study, annual return-on-investment on companies' SAN investment compared with traditional direct-attached storage model was as high as 500 per cent and achieved complete payback in two months. Gartner said the cost of managing enterprise storage environments could quadruple in four years because of the increasing cost of data management - estimated to be five to seven times greater than that of buying the storage system on which the data resides.