With data storage demands rising every year, analysts say big business will adopt file area networks (FANs) by 2008.

But while there will be a few early adopters, it will take a few years for the benefits to be appealing to the mass market said IDC Asia Pacific Associate Vice President Graham Penn.

A FAN integrates hardware, software and services to organise and route file data or unstructured, data stored within a file system into a central database.

The new storage methodology is tipped to help businesses cost-effectively manage data networks, consolidate data and improve data connectivity. FANs are built on storage infrastructure, which can be run in either a storage area network (SAN) or networked attached storage (NAS) environment, and uses file-serving devices integrated into the infrastructure or as a gateway interface.

A FAN is based on a file system that organises, presents, and stores file content for clients, referred to as the file system's namespace.

"We will start facing 30 to 50% increases in data [storage] demands while there are limited improvements in technology, [so] people will stop trying to make do with insufficient infrastructure," said Penn. "FANs work best in areas of high latency where there is benefit from this type of [centralised storage], remembering that increasing bandwidth doesn't fix latency."

Penn said FANs are to traditional file management what SANs were to direct-attached storage.

He added that the global advent of compliance laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley will force industry to implement better storage layouts like FANs.

"These types of compliance measures are inevitable, except we will have to wait until someone is jailed for it before industry swarms in mass panic."

FAN vendors include EMC, Brocade and NetApp.