Introduction to Storage Area Network
Getting back to basics, this article explains what storage networking is and what it can mean to enterprises. Read on to find out more about Storage Area Network (SAN), the problems addressed, benefits, and factors that enterprises should consider to make decisions about their infrastructure.
What is Storage Area Network (SAN)?
The Storage Networking Industry Association defines SAN as a ‘High-performance network whose primary purpose is to enable storage devices to communicate with computer systems and with each other’. To get rid of some common assumptions, neither does this definition specify the channel of communication between storage devices and computer systems nor about the kind of storage devices that are interconnected. Also, SAN does not have just the one purpose of communicating between storage devices and computers.
But then, when computers are already connected to storage devices, why do we need SAN? The answer to this question is ‘Universal Storage Connectivity’.
Consider an example where thousands of servers are connected to thousands of storage devices each. If a server needs to access the data stored at a different server, either the data needs to be copied directly or it needs to be copied to an intermediate storage device first and then taken from there. For the intermediate storage device, computers negotiate device ownership among themselves to share data.
This system is not so efficient for quite a few reasons. Regular copying of data from computer to computer is not only time consuming but also a hindrance to performance. Henceforth, we need a system that accommodates a logical change of device ownership to access the data.
This is exactly where SAN comes into the picture. If there is a system where storage devices are a part of the network and can be easily accessed by computers/servers to either store or retrieve data, this will eliminate the need to:
- Schedule data transfers between computers,
- Purchase and maintain extra storage
As a consequence, two or more computers can work from the same copy of data at any given point in time!
The Ideal SAN
Now that we know the main problem that SAN solves, it is important to know what constitutes the ideal SAN.
- A SAN must be highly available.
- A lot of enterprise information is easily accessible in one basket. Therefore, SAN must have built-in protection.
- The computers, storage devices and, their interfaces to SAN and, the links and switches must survive component failures.
- Performance plays an important role here. The system must possess high data transfer rates and low I/O request latency.
- The system must also be scalable.
Apart from basic capacity, availability and, performance requirements, advanced functionality in the chosen architecture can further reduce the cost or enhance the information services. A cost-benefit analysis gives enterprises an idea about how more can be done with less. The goal here is to reduce the cost of information processing without diminishing the quality of service delivered.
SAN Backup and Disaster Recovery
If co-operative computers are grouped into clusters, data can be retrieved easily from disasters. A dedicated backup server on a SAN can make frequent and periodic backups to make the updated point-in-time recovery of lost information. So that, long-distance storage networking can be avoided to keep the data close to where it is needed and vaulting can be enabled, which is another mechanism that handles the duplicate copy of backed up data so that if and when a disaster strikes at a certain area, a secondary solution or even a long-distance solution can keep the business up and running.
Therefore, it is prudent that the infrastructure of an enterprise be designed in a way that it can be handled way beyond anticipated growth and peak performance without any disruption to day-to-day activities that keep the business thriving. SAN is one of those solutions that can reduce the cost and further enhance information services for enterprises.
It is crucial that organizations maintain the security, integrity and, accessibility of their data and SAN seems to be the way forward. Organizations can either maintain information on-premises or choose to opt for DSaaS (Data Storage as a Service) as a go-to option. DSaaS is yet another option where storage service providers exist to store and maintain the data for enterprises. Either way, it is important to know and consider the right factors to make the right decision at the right time.
Zmanda makes SAN backups simple, yet powerful enough to comply with rigorous disaster recovery requirements offering reliable protection for massive amounts of data. We simplify disaster recovery for large quantities of structured/unstructured data. Do you want to back up your enterprise data to SAN?