Ask the Expert

What you need to know in order to choose the right SAN products

I am looking for SAN solution for telecom industry. We have a wide range of servers and all the data is stored locally (Unix-Alpha box to Windows Box).

We want to move all the data to central storage. The SAN should be accessible from Dell/IBM/HP server and Unix/Windows/Linux/Tru64 supporting.

We're also looking for a SAN cluster -- online backup for SAN, so that if one SAN fails, our users can access another SAN in a different location, connected by fiber cable.

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Before I could make a recommendation, I'd need to ask a few additional questions. How far apart are the clustered servers, from each other and the storage? How is the fiber cable configured? Is it dedicated dark fiber, Ethernet, SONET/SDH, or configured as some other type of network interface? How much storage capacity is required now and in the not so distant future? Are the applications I/O intensive or storage intensive or both? By online backup, are you looking for a storage solution that supports remote mirroring and replication combined with point-in-time (PIT) copies for snapshot backups? What are your recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO)?

Knowing answers to these and other questions should help you to characterize which storage solutions would best fit your storage needs. There are many different products from different vendors, including those you mentioned (DELL, HP, IBM) as well as EMC, HDS, STK and Sun among others. In addition to looking at products, you will also want to consider connectivity options between the SANs, possibly including inter-fabric routing for isolation and segmentation. You should also keep in mind which management software and toolset you will use to manage this environment. How will what the software be integrated with all of the other storage components for the target environment? If you are looking for some specific criteria and features to look for in a storage subsystems and management software take a look at www.evaluatorgroup.com/workbooks.

This was first published in August 2004

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