Boot Windows 2000 from a SAN
Rick Cook

Windows 2000 can boot from a SAN, but it requires the right kind of SAN and the right configuration. The "right kind of SAN" means a switched SAN or one in which the SAN is directly attached from each host to one of the storage system's Fibre Channel ports. Microsoft does not support FC-AL.

The "right configuration" means primarily that the host has exclusive access to the boot disk. No other host on the SAN should be able to detect or access that disk, which is usually a logical disk. According to Microsoft, Windows has no facilities for mapping logical units (LUNs) and setting up the logical disk to serve as a boot disk is normally done at the switch, the storage system or the Host Bus Adapter (HBA).

Another part of the "right configuration" involves the multiple host-bus adapters (HBAs) used by some SANs to improve reliability. If the system uses multiple paths to provide higher reliability, a failure may cause the loss of a path to the SAN and that can cause problems with the Windows server. Microsoft says the way around this problem is to make sure both the multi-path driver and the storage system are on the Hardware Compatibility List.

Microsoft's attitude toward problems booting from a SAN is that it is usually related to the SAN rather than Windows 2000 and the first contact should be with the SAN vendor. The company describes the process, and offers troubleshooting tips,

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in its knowledge base article Q305547 at http://support.microsoft.com.

Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.


This was first published in January 2002

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