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SAN consolidation strategies

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The big picture
Any consolidation project needs to start with an inventory of existing storage arrays, switches, servers and applications. A good understanding of the existing storage landscape, applications and user requirements is needed before you can assemble a plan to move toward a more consolidated SAN.

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SAN consolidation tips
Redundancy and the required level of SAN isolation need to be a central part of the consolidation plan.

A vendor review, with an eye toward possible vendor consolidation, should be included in the storage consolidation project.

If a storage chargeback model is in place, establish internal prices for the different storage tiers.

Make sure the proper storage management tools are in place to monitor SAN performance and availability.

Obviously, the importance of planning increases with the size of the primary SAN and the number of smaller SANs that need to be consolidated. While little planning is required when building small, isolated SANs, thorough planning is imperative when there are multiple departments and applications competing for consolidated SAN resources. The "buy storage" mindset that dominates isolated SAN deployments needs to make way for an "architect storage" mentality. Large, consolidated SANs aren't bought--they're designed and architected.

The SAN consolidation project must address the two biggest concerns of tying SAN islands into a data center's primary SAN: an increased level of dependency on the primary SAN's availability, and possible conflicts among applications and users accessing the SAN. Both concerns can be addressed with an appropriate SAN design.

The risk of downtime is reduced by putting the proper level of redundancy in place. Some of the cost savings realized by consolidating storage needs to be reinvested in a redundant storage design that eliminates single points of failure or at least substantially reduces the possibility of downtime. "The more eggs you put into one basket, the more robust you want your basket to be," says Mario Blandini, director of product marketing at Brocade Communications Systems Inc.

This was first published in December 2006

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