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Questions to consider
As with any endeavor, the most important thing about a SAN implementation is getting a clear picture of the end result. Basic questions include: What do you want to accomplish? What applications will be included? What resources will be required?

Some storage vendors oversell the benefits of their products, as new SAN users quickly learn. Pricing can be deceptive; for example, required options, such as host bus adapters, and software for snapshots and data replication can quickly double initial price estimates.

Canaras Capital Management LLC, an asset management firm in New York City, set clear objectives for its new SAN. "Step No. 1 is educating yourself about SAN technology," advises Raffi Jamgotchian, CIO. He says his company was looking for a flexible and scalable infrastructure, but wanted to avoid the higher acquisition costs of an FC SAN by evaluating iSCSI alternatives. "Ease of management was the most important thing for us. If we had to hire another person just to run the SAN, it wouldn't have been cost-effective," says Jamgotchian, adding that it's vital to seek product references from other users.

This sentiment is echoed by Griffin, Smalley & Wilkerson's Eastman. "Take the vendors' products for a spin," he says. "Evaluate their technology in your own shop, if possible." Most hardware vendors, big or small, will welcome the opportunity to bring their equipment onsite for evaluation once they recognize an opportunity.

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Many will also bring along expert technicians to assist with the testing and implementation. But don't be tempted by options and features that weren't on your original wish list. Although some companies now bundle many advanced features at a single price, others use à la carte pricing.

If you're in a small IT shop, most likely you and your colleagues will be learning a new technology and designing new business operational processes around the SAN. "One vendor wanted me to take a week of training with the SAN solution, which is something we couldn't afford even if it was free of charge," says Eastman. Environments like these should look for the simplest and most integrated solutions to reduce the amount of training required.

This was first published in September 2007

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