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The best way to expand a SAN

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Storage arrays
Not all storage arrays are equal. Therefore, clearly understanding vendor-specific differences and roadmaps is crucial when choosing a RAID vendor. While features like mirroring, synchronous/asynchronous replication and point-in-time copies are standard in today's storage arrays, they're largely proprietary and will work only between arrays of the same vendor or RAID family. For instance, EMC's SRDS software for remote replication won't work with HDS' TrueCopy or IBM's Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy. Therefore, standardizing on a single storage array vendor is prudent. Moreover, all major storage vendors, including EMC, HDS and IBM resell Brocade, Cisco and McData switches, enabling a single-vendor strategy for all SAN components. But not all CIOs are comfortable with putting all of their eggs in one basket. Therefore, the benefit of a single-vendor relationship and the volume discounts that go along with it need to be weighed against vendor lock-in.

The single most important factor when choosing a storage array is determining the class of storage required. Will a midrange array suffice or is an expensive, high-end storage array required to meet given performance and growth requirements? Midrange systems are typically dual-controller arrays like the EMC Clariion CX array family or Hitachi Thunder 9500 V Series. Tailored to the needs of smaller and midsized environments, they're easier to manage than high-end arrays. High-end arrays like the EMC

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Symmetrix DMX array family and Hitachi Lightning 9900 V Series are based on scalable architectures that scale to the most demanding performance requirements. For instance, the Direct Matrix Architecture implemented in the Symmetrix DMX array family supports up to 128 processors, enabling it to deal with a range of simultaneous tasks and, most importantly, to maintain performance and application response as the load increases.

Besides storage controllers, disk drives are a major part of the overall price of a storage array. Choosing the appropriate type of drive for a given purpose can result in noticeable savings. While expensive FC drives should be used for mission-critical applications and data, SATA drives suffice for less-critical, tier-two storage.

This was first published in July 2006

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