Tip

How to decide between Fibre and iSCSI SANs

Question: I am evaluating an architecture that is all Fibre-based and another system that is just iSCSI-based. Can you please explain benefits going with either or and any other concerns you would have?

If I were you, I would do a real evaluation by bringing in all two products into your data center and test them out before you make a decision. If you can bring them in- house here is a checklist of things you must consider before making a decision.

1. Look at the management interface to determine ease of use

2. Try loading new microcode and see how transparent it is

3. Test the "phone home" capability to make sure it works

4. Try expanding a volume on the fly, to make sure it's transparent to your operations

5. Try booting into the SAN, to make sure you can take advantage of it

6. Try out all the firmware based functionality you will be buying, like snapshots and replication

7. Test the path failover functionality

8. Do you have a choice of switches or HBAs or are you forced to buy from the vendor

9. Place a service call and see how responsive the company is

10. Force failures in the array, and see how it handles the errors

Doing all the above will get you past the vendor "hype" and give you a good idea of which solution will actually work in your particular environment.

The solution should be easy to use and fit into your current management framework.

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The solution should also match the service level needed for your applications and fit within the budget you have allocated.

Be wary of ongoing costs. The up-front purchase price may not include everything you need down the road. Although some solutions are more expensive up front, you need to look at the total operational cost over the lifetime of the solution. Little things tend to add up over time.

About the author
Christopher Poelker is a storage architect and Co-author of SAN for Dummies.

This was first published in May 2004

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