A storage area network (SAN) is a high-speed special-purpose network (or subnetwork) that interconnects different kinds of data storage devices with associated data servers on behalf of a larger network of users.
Typically, a storage area network is part of the overall network of computing resources for an enterprise. A storage area network is usually clustered in close proximity to other computing resources such as IBM z990 mainframes but may also extend to remote locations for backup and archival storage, using wide area network carrier technologies such as ATM or SONET.
A storage area network can use existing communication technology such as IBM's optical fiber ESCON or use Fibre Channel technology. Some SAN system integrators liken it to the common storage bus (flow of data) in a personal computer that is shared by different kinds of storage devices such as a hard disk or a CD-ROM player.
SANs support disk mirroring, backup and restore, archival and retrieval of archived data, data migration from one storage device to another and the sharing of data among different servers in a network. SANs can incorporate subnetworks with network-attached storage (NAS) systems.