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SAN consolidation strategies

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Application and user conflict concerns can be addressed with SAN isolation techniques like zoning, LUN masking and Fibre Channel (FC) routing with prioritization methodologies like quality of service (QoS) and bandwidth reservation offered by contemporary SAN equipment. The key to overcoming conflict concerns lies in a proper SAN architecture that guarantees the right level of performance for each application. A disk-to-disk backup job to a SATA volume should never impact the performance of your mission-critical databases or business applications.

Unlike SAN islands, a centralized SAN can only function with clearly defined policies and processes for requesting and categorizing storage, and when the appropriate storage tiers are assigned based on requirements.

"With storage changes impacting a large number of users, we had to adjust and tighten our storage change management policies, as well as standardize the default size of requested LUNs to 64GB," reports Carl Follstad, manager, university data management services at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Putting policies and processes in place is a crucial piece of any SAN consolidation project, and it can be a challenging task, especially for smaller, less process-oriented organizations.

Finally, SAN consolidation isn't complete without a storage vendor review. If you have more than two vendors, you should work toward getting down to two vendors or even a single vendor. Having

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multiple vendors requires training your staff on multiple sets of equipment and tools, and overcoming the hurdle of moving data among different vendors' equipment. A single vendor strategy, on the other hand, bears the risk of vendor lock-in and losing price negotiation power, which requires more vendor management effort. "Typically, we see cost saving[s] as high as 20% to 30% in multivendor bake-offs," reports Robert Passmore, research vice president at Gartner Inc., Stamford, CT.

From a high level, all consolidation strategies can be traced to two fundamental approaches: physical consolidation by migrating to fewer, larger systems; and virtual consolidation by bringing smaller systems under a single management umbrella. In most consolidation projects, there's a blend of the two approaches.

This was first published in December 2006

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