Implementing a SAN
by Rob Strechay

Published August 2002




The cost of acquiring and implementing a storage area network (SAN) has recently started to come down to earth, but not because SANs are becoming Ethernet-like commodities. Instead, like most publicly held tech companies, many SAN vendors are trying to cut their inventories. The lean times are also putting consolidation pressures on smaller storage start-ups, forcing some of them out of business or into the arms of the larger, more-established competitors in the field.


So this can be a good time to make a deal on SAN infrastructure, or on direct-attached storage (DAS) or network-attached storage (NAS) gear—assuming you have done your homework and know what you need. But don't shortcut the fact-finding and business-case processes. Every storage implementation has unique requirements and must be custom fit to the existing applications, servers, disk arrays and management software: That's another reason that SAN, DAS and NAS solutions are not yet commodities.


SANs are not as complicated as the literature would have you believe, although vendors are still inclined to talk about the future and sell you the present. Make sure to understand your own requirements and stick to them.


If you are looking at multiple vendors, as you should, make sure that you come up with a common configuration for all the vendors to meet. You will never be comparing exactly apples to apples, but you want to avoid, say, justifying a watermelon compared to an apple or a plum. Even then—because IT expenses are being closely scrutinized and politics can enter the mix—the best technology does not always win.


SAN implementations are bound to pick up as the economy turns around and IT spending increases. They help companies increase the throughput of their basic applications and storage devices. Another boost in SAN spending will come from government regulations detailing how, where and for how long information needs to be accessible and archived.


From a market and technology viewpoint, consolidation is inevitable. We will have fewer vendors, and SAN technology will eventually be just another optional blade in a general-purpose LAN switch. Until then, however, SANs still have some maturing to do. They will probably grow more like Virtual LAN segments, with strict access control lists permitting traffic to traverse between servers and storage devices as well as between storage devices and other storage devices, and more products will be developed that scale from small to medium to large.


About the author:

Rob Strechay is a principal consultant with Strechay Communications and the former manager of network operations for Wheelhouse Corp. This article is based on his recent experience with Wheelhouse Corp.



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