How your SAN will evolve


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Storage skills
"Storage managers will have to get comfortable with server virtualization and moveable workloads," says Dell's Luning. "They'll also need to know about the data, data classification, and better understand each app's storage and performance requirements."

The skills storage admins have today--setting up RAID, provisioning LUNs, zoning and masking--will be relegated to a few specialists or automation.

"The low-level skills will get folded into automation," says Sun's Schaffer. "The storage administrator's expertise will lie in knowing what the data needs and what the requirements are."

For example, a storage admin setting up storage for Microsoft Exchange "will need to know not only the number of mailboxes and their size, but the performance needs and protection requirements, the RPO and RTO," says HP's Fitze. Ideally, the admin can specify this at a high level and automation will set it up correctly.

In addition, storage admins may have to rethink their approach to RAID for extremely large (1TB-plus) disk drives due to impossibly slow rebuild times.

"Extremely large drives raise questions about RAID. Administrators may have to do RAID across files or objects so they would have to rebuild only a small part of a disk," says Enterprise Management Associates' Karp.

No cloud in the forecast
What the enterprise SAN

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won't look like in five years is a SAN in the cloud, although some storage operations may use the cloud. Similarly, the SAN is unlikely to exist as a set of Web services despite the widespread acceptance of Web services. A wireless SAN could eliminate cabling hassles and expenses, but the volume of data and security concerns make this unlikely. Large DAS farms are a possibility for special situations, but they're unlikely to replace the enterprise SAN despite the simplicity of DAS.

The SAN in five years may look surprisingly similar to the enterprise SAN of today. Protocol convergence, unified fabrics and server virtualization will simplify and complicate the SAN. Storage administrators will need new skills--a better understanding of virtualization, data and apps--while keeping their traditional storage skills sharp. It's not that SAN technology isn't advancing fast. Rather, organizations deploying enterprise SANs adopt change at a more measured pace.

SAN trends, 2013

Disk drives Hard disk drives remain the dominant storage in 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch form factors; 4K sectors will emerge for enhanced error correction; expect capacities to reach 4TB disk capacity, but 15K rpm will remain the top choice for performance.

Management With the widespread adoption of VMware and other hypervisors, APIs by management tool vendors will simplify the backup of virtual servers and enable dynamic provisioning of mobile virtual machines. Intelligence embedded in the SAN and switch will enable more automated, policy-based data management. Object-based storage with rich meta data will allow more intelligence-driven data automation.

Storage Arrays Ultra-high-density storage arrays will pack more storage into a smaller, greener footprint; arrays will have multiple interfaces (IP, enhanced IP, Fibre Channel over Ethernet, Fibre Channel) to connect with converged fabrics; some solid-state disk will be incorporated for high IOPS data.

Switches Multiprotocol switches will be common, and switches will have greater intelligence, which will be used for management.

This was first published in December 2008

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