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Storage Area Network Solutions

There is a growing demand from corporate IT for storage that is highly available, scalable, protected from disasters, easily managed, high performance and completely backed up. Storage Area Networks (SAN) are the answer to these driving forces. SAN is one of the most exciting and innovative technologies to appear over the last few years. Despite all the press, many businesses are still unfamiliar with what SANs are and how they might benefit from one.

Storage has become one of the most important resources a business has. Not only does it hold your business' applications, it's also the repository for all of your data. The problem with traditional storage is that it's difficult to manage, inflexible and hard to backup.

The SAN was conceived to alleviate these problems. It does so in five key ways: Consolidation, Management, Performance, Scalability and Backup.

Consolidation

A SAN consolidates the storage from many servers into a single disk subsystem. This not only allows you to better manage your storage but it improves your flexibility. You no longer have to move disks from one server to another as their roles and storage needs change. Instead you reallocate the disks within the single subsystem to fit your current needs. Consolidation also allows for better disk utilization and performance when combined with storage virtualization.

Management

Managing the storage of multiple servers can be a daunting task. A storage admin can be faced with the need to increase the size of a server's storage, the need to shrink it, a failed drive that needs to be replaced, or a disk system that needs to be performance tuned. With a SAN you have fewer points of management to worry about. Storage pool resizing and performance tuning can be handled from a single management console.

Performance

A SAN can enhance performance in your environment in many ways. By putting your storage on a separate high-speed network, you can free up your LAN from storage traffic especially during backup or restore. That extra network bandwidth can help to boost the performance for your users and for your servers. Because a SAN will typically be implemented with RAID or even virtualization, you should be able to realize higher I/O performance than your traditional storage.

Scalability

Storage growth is far easier to deal with in a SAN environment. If you need more disk space just add drives to the subsystem. Many SAN systems allow you to grow your storage pools on-line without user interruption. Even if you do outgrow one subsystem additional ones can be placed within the same SAN and still be managed from the same console.

Backup

The best argument in favor of a SAN really has to be the ability to facilitate data backup. Backup and restore is by far the largest problem faced by storage administrators. Without a SAN, you're faced with three unseemly choices: Backup each system to it's own tape unit, which is a challenge to manage; create centralized backup servers to ease management but suffer from slow backup speed and a high performance hit on your network; or don't backup at all, which is unacceptable.

With a SAN you can gain the benefit of centralized backup and easier administration and yet have little impact on your LAN/WAN. Advanced storage backup techniques like data replication, mirroring and disaster recovery also become more viable with a SAN.

You should see by now how a SAN could benefit your business. A SAN will turn your storage into a flexible resource that you can manipulate, manage, replicate, share, allocate and access with ease.

Advantages:

  • Adds an additional layer of security on your storage resources.
  • Allows for the best implementation of server clustering.
  • Can reduce or even eliminate backup windows.
  • Higher availability.
  • Improved LAN/WAN performance.
  • Easier to manage.
  • Improved disaster recovery capabilities.
  • Storage flexibility - quickly move resources when and where you need them.
  • Non-disruptive scalability.
  • Recovery of data while storage is On-line.
  • More efficient use of rack and floor space.
  • Better Database performance.

Disadvantages:

  • Cost.
  • Interoperability between different manufacturers is still a problem.
  • Complex rollout.
  • Requires staff training.

How can a SAN deliver a good return on your investment?

  • Better disk utilization and performance.
  • Can extend the life of existing servers by boosting their storage performance and reducing their CPU load.
  • Consolidate your backup servers reducing cost and improving performance.
  • Improves LAN/WAN performance so you can avoid costly upgrades.
  • IT staff will be able to make storage decisions at a granular level, yet still have a view of the big picture.
  • Lower management and maintenance costs due to consolidation and better staff utilization.
  • Higher availability can improve the efficiency of your workforce.
  • More efficient use of rack and floor space. Can save on collocation costs.

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