Hardware technology: SAN: new millennium fix (part 2)

In the first part of this column, published on August 14 (Vol. 6 No. 30), I explained the need for SAN - Storage Area Network. Businesses which manage IT systems that are located far apart, it was explained, often run into problems reading and sharing data in a heterogenous IT environment, as platforms may be incompatible with each other and creating data backups may interrupt or interefer with data transmission.


Stanislav Dzurík

In the first part of this column, published on August 14 (Vol. 6 No. 30), I explained the need for SAN - Storage Area Network. Businesses which manage IT systems that are located far apart, it was explained, often run into problems reading and sharing data in a heterogenous IT environment, as platforms may be incompatible with each other and creating data backups may interrupt or interefer with data transmission.

SAN can solve these problems because it is a specific high-speed server and storage area connection, able to connect all its constituents to one another by such connection modules as hubs, switches, gateways and routers. It not only eliminates restrictions on the amount of storage equipment able to be connected to servers, but it also makes net connection more flexible, enabling one or more heterogeneous servers to share storage space containing equipment such as discs, tapes and optical storage units, which can then be located far from servers.

SAN can be called a net hidden or placed behind servers. It is created directly from storage interfaces on the basis of Fibre Channel technology. Fibre Channel enables highly adjustable connections to be made over long distances, and at the same time creates parallel routes to storage equipment or to data stored on it. What is more, these connections are fast and powerful, and with the use of switching technology also safe against possible failures.

I won't get into a detailed description of the characteristics of Fibre Channel here (readers who want to know more can reach me at the address below), but its importance is that storage equipment connected to SAN is perceived by hosts as local equipment. Thanks to its network properties it is able to support multiple protocols, a wide range of equipment, and can be managed as a standard network. External equipment can be connected by copper or optical cables. The implementation of SAN, based on this, has the following implications for business.

    1. Storage consolidation, resource sharing
    2. Data sharing
    3. Disc capacity enlargement during system functioning
    4. Major reduction in data access time and time needed for backing up and restoring data
    5. Solution for clients requiring systems with high (permanent) accessibility
    6. Fast data migration
    7. Investment security

The SAN solution, being a new technology, is of course not cheap, and as a result, the building of SAN can be a gradual process starting just with the connecting of an external Fibre Channel disc field to a server, creating a point to point connection.

Stanislav Dzurík is an IT consultant at Columbex International. Comments and questions can be sent to his email address at: dzurik@columbex.sk

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