Building a SAN from A to Z

Bits & Bytes: A compilation of technical advice for help designing and building a SAN.

You touted the benefits of a storage area network (SAN) to upper management and finally received the funding to invest. You're looking forward to an any-to-any relationship between storage and computers on the network, enabling you to block access to data, increase data access speed and bandwidth scalability, implement redundancy schemes, perform server-free backups, and do all of this and more over distance.

But your work is far from done. Now you have to put that money to task and design a SAN to fit your needs.

To begin architecting your SAN, a variety of elements need to be considered: How large a SAN can or should you build? What overriding framework will you use to manage the SAN? Which type of switch and HBA driver is best for your environment? Should you consider a SAN/NAS hybrid?

To help answer these and other SAN architecture questions, we've compiled the following collection of expert advice, tips and white papers.

SearchStorage.com technical advice on SAN architectures...

  • Experts offer dos and don'ts on networked storage
    This Q&A interview provides expert advice on common SAN implementation dilemmas and the nuances of handling vendors from three SearchStorage.com contributors: HDS Storage Architect Christopher Poelker, independent author Marc Farley and founder of Dragon Slayer Consulting Marc Staimer.
  • Evaluating proposed SAN configurations, part 1 and part 2
    Who said building a SAN is easy? SearchStorage.com storage networking expert Chris Poelker dispenses key insights in this two-part Q&A about what to look for when considering a SAN design.
  • SAN topologies, part 1: Know your switch options
    This tip describes when it's best to use big switches (directors or core switches), when to use small switches (edge or departmental switches) and when to use a mixture (core-edge design).
  • SAN topologies, part 2: How to design your SAN
    Once you've determined what size switch you need, you have to choose a SAN topology for your design -- mesh or core-edge. SearchStorage.com contributor Simon Gordon offers his points on when to use one over the other.
  • Brocade vs. McData: Who's really winning in switch technology?
    Knowing your switch options also means knowing who the players are. Get an overview of the top switch vendors and their offerings in this tip.
  • Single- vs. dual-fabric SANs
    Chris Poelker identifies when and why you would use a dual-fabric SAN design.
  • Mixing arbitrated loop and fabric
    This tip describes how arbitrated loop devices and fabric switches work in different ways, and why you want to avoid mixing the two.
  • Choosing your storage networking protocol
    Simon Gordon compares SCSI, iSCSI and Fibre Channel, and describes the expected viability of each protocol in the storage market.
  • Strategic decisions for managing SANs
    Simon Gordon outlines several considerations for making strategic decisions in your SAN product selection, design, implementation and management.
  • Design your SAN for high availability
    Here are best practices for building a high availability SAN from the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA).
  • Maximize locality when setting up a SAN
    SAN traffic should flow through only one switch as much as possible. Find out why locality is so important in your SAN design.
  • Expert webcast: How to sidestep SAN implementation complexities
    Peter Galvin, chief technologist of Corporate Technologies discusses what it takes to install a SAN, what to watch out for and how to make the transition go as smooth as possible.
  • Expert webcast: Building high performance SAN/NAS infrastructures
    In this excellent webcast with SearchStorage.com veteran expert Chris Poelker, he takes attendees on a journey exploring some of the most common storage network topologies he helps architect out in the field. (Get ready for some detailed topology diagrams in this one.)
  • Expert webcast: Top SAN interoperability issues: What's still lurking in the weeds
    Glasshouse Technologies' Bill Peldzus joined us for an earlier webcast while he was part of Imation Storage Professional Services. Listen to his hour-long discussion on old and new interoperability issues that arise when deploying a SAN.
  • Also, check out these white papers on SAN design and architectures

    Or, ask storage networking experts Marc Farley or Chris Poelker for help.

    This was first published in March 2003
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