Ask the Expert

How do I document my SAN, Part 1

How do I document my SAN?

I have been tasked with producing and maintaining some of our SAN documentation. Suggested titles are, ESS configuration information and ESS capacity /budget information.

We have no advanced SAN management tools, which doesn't help. Are there any SAN documentation templates out there that may be of value to me or any other resources in terms of documenting a SAN?

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Chris Poelker responded:

Part 1

I have a chapter on SAN documentation in my book "Storage Area Networks for Dummies." It's also on Amazon.com for about $20.00.

The best way to document a SAN is to start with the switches and work your way out on BOTH sides from there. List all the fabric ports, and note where they connect. Setting up switches to hold servers and storage on specific port locations can help you also. If you have a small SAN, and don't use a core edge design, you can pick particular ports for storage. Say you place all storage on ports 0-8 on all switches, and servers on ports 9-16. It will make it much easier to locate bad cables using that approach.

Getting a good software package that will go out and scan the SAN for components and auto-document for you is almost a must have in very large SANs. Be aware though that there is no one perfect software solution available today. Each storage management application has something it does very well and other things that may need improvement.

If you want to skip the software, and save some cash, you can build a simple template by asking these questions of your server and network management team. I ask these questions when designing a SAN for particular customers.

Storage management pertinent questions:
Will any lives be lost if downtime occurs
How many locations
Distance between locations
Intersite link speed
Type of intersite link (single T1, multiple T1, T3, OC3, Fibre, etc.)
Access to DWDM over dark Fibre between sites (If yes, how many channels are available)
Shared or dedicated links
How many links between sites
Total link bandwidth
Total link bandwidth available
Do you have ability to provide QOS on WAN links
Total GB to be replicated
Sync or async replication desired (NOTE: Sync may impact application performance when replicating over long distances)
Current WAN network provider
Current WAN equipment in place (model number, version, manufacturer)
Server and network management software in use
Storage management software in use if any
SRM software in use
Firewall or security issues for data
SAN boot requirements
Preferred HBA/switch vendor
Do you make your own cables
Current distance between servers and storage (if direct attached, please disregard)
Production site names
Recovery site names
Recovery site staffing
Can recovery servers assume primary IP address (do you have VLAN capability)
Is the network flat, segmented, switched (can a segment be stretched to the recovery site)
Backbone network type and speed (10baseT, GigE, coax, optical, etc.)
Interserver network connection speed
Client network speed
Do you have a separate BACKUP network in place (speed, flat or switched)
Does backup currently affect network resources (do you back up over the public LAN)
Backup solution in place (shared library, SAN, direct attached, etc.)
Current backup software and version

Storage management pertinent questions continues in Part 2:


This was first published in August 2003

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