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Multiple redundant SAN islands versus a large SAN fabric

What are the pros and cons of multiple redundant SAN islands as opposed to a large redundant SAN fabric?

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At the risk of getting in trouble with the SAN availability police, I do not believe that there is any such thing as a single large redundant fabric today. There are very high availability single fabrics; however, by definition, anything with a single point of failure is not redundant. Your single point of failure in a fabric is not the switches, ISLs, connections or devices, but rather the software, name services, zones, management practices and techniques.

That being said, the better question is: should you go with two large fabrics or many smaller SAN islands? The answer may very well be a combination in which you use a SAN router like those from Brocade, Cisco and McData to physically connect the SAN islands yet logically isolate them as separate SAN segments and fabrics. Regardless, whether you choose to go with a large fabric or many small SAN islands implemented with redundancy, maintain some level of redundancy and isolation. Balance the perceived management benefit of having one large SAN versus the management challenge of coordinating changes in a single environment.

This was first published in October 2004

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