Getting Started With Storage Area Networks: What You Need to Know
What Is a Storage Area Network?
A Storage Area Network (SAN) is a dedicated network that connects multiple storage devices to servers and applications. SANs are designed to provide high-speed, low-latency access to storage, making them ideal for businesses that need to store and manage large amounts of data. SANs are typically made up of three primary components:
- Hosts: Servers and applications that require access to storage.
- Storage devices: Disks, arrays, and other data storage devices.
- Fabric: The network infrastructure that connects hosts and storage devices.
The fabric of a SAN is a critical component that enables high-speed data transfer between hosts and storage devices. There are two primary types of fabrics used in SANs: Fibre Channel and iSCSI.
Regardless of the fabric used, SANs provide a number of benefits over traditional direct-attached storage (DAS) solutions. With DAS, each server has its own dedicated storage devices which can lead to issues with scalability, management, and data protection. In contrast, SANs allow multiple servers to access shared storage resources which can improve efficiency and reduce costs.
SANs are an essential technology for businesses that need reliable and scalable access to large amounts of data. Understanding how they work can help organizations make informed decisions about their storage needs and infrastructure requirements.
How Do SANs Work?
SANs work by providing high-speed, low-latency access to storage devices. This is achieved through the use of dedicated network infrastructure, such as Fibre Channel or iSCSI, which provides a high-speed connection between hosts and storage devices.
Fibre Channel is a dedicated network protocol designed specifically for storage networking. It provides extremely fast data transfer rates, low latency, and high reliability. Fibre Channel networks typically use specialized hardware such as switches, host bus adapters (HBAs), and cables to ensure optimal performance.
iSCSI, on the other hand, uses standard Ethernet networks to transmit SCSI commands over IP networks. While iSCSI may not offer the same level of performance as Fibre Channel, it can be more cost-effective and easier to deploy since it leverages existing network infrastructure.
SANs are typically designed to be fault-tolerant, with redundant components and failover mechanisms to ensure maximum uptime and availability. This is accomplished through the use of technologies such as RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), which allows data to be distributed across multiple disks, and clustering, which allows multiple servers to work together as a single system.
In addition to fault-tolerance, SANs also offer scalability. As storage needs grow, additional storage devices can be added to the network without disrupting existing operations or requiring significant changes to the infrastructure. SANs are often used in enterprise-level environments where high-speed data access and reliability are critical. For example, financial institutions may use SANs to store transactional data, while healthcare organizations may use them for medical imaging and patient records.
One important consideration when implementing a SAN is security. Since multiple hosts have access to the same storage devices, it’s crucial to ensure that sensitive data is protected from unauthorized access. This can be achieved through measures such as access controls and encryption. Overall, SANs provide a robust and scalable solution for high-speed storage access in enterprise-level environments.
Common OEMs Found in the Data Center
There are several OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) that provide SAN solutions for data centers. Here are a few of the most common:
- Dell EMC: Dell EMC is one of the largest providers of SANs and other storage solutions. They offer a wide range of SAN products, including the Dell EMC Unity, PowerMax, and VMAX arrays.
- HPE: HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) is another major provider of SANs and storage solutions. They offer a variety of SAN products, including the HPE 3PAR, Nimble Storage, and StoreOnce arrays.
- NetApp: NetApp is a leading provider of SAN and other storage solutions. They offer a variety of SAN products, including the AFF and FAS arrays.
- IBM: IBM is a major provider of SANs and other storage solutions. They offer a wide range of SAN products, including the IBM DS8000, Storwize, and FlashSystem arrays.
- Hitachi Vantara: Hitachi Vantara is a provider of SAN and other storage solutions. They offer a variety of SAN products, including the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP), G-series, and HNAS arrays.
Choosing the Right SAN for Your Business
- Performance: The SAN must be able to provide the required level of performance for your applications.
- Scalability: The SAN should be able to scale to meet your growing storage needs.
- Reliability: The SAN must be reliable, with redundant components and failover mechanisms to ensure maximum uptime.
- Management: The SAN should be easy to manage and monitor, with intuitive tools and interfaces.
- Cost: The SAN should be cost-effective, with a low total cost of ownership (TCO) over its lifespan.
Storage Area Networks are a critical component of modern data centers. They allow businesses to store and manage large amounts of data, while also providing high availability and fault tolerance. When choosing a SAN for your business, it’s important to consider factors such as performance, scalability, reliability, management, and cost.
If you’re in need of hardware to build out your storage area network, ReluTech is here to assist you. Our team of experts have years of experience in sourcing and selling top-of-the-line storage, server, and network devices to help businesses achieve their goals. Whether you’re looking for new or refurbished hardware, or just for short-term leasing, we can help you find the right components to meet your needs. In addition, ReluTech provides third-party maintenance services to keep your legacy devices running and avoid a costly equipment refresh. Request a quote today to learn more about how we can help you optimize your storage area network and take your business to the next level.