Isolate the SAN network
Rick Cook

Although the files on a SAN travel over a specialized network dedicated to storage, things like requests for files are usually sent over the enterprise LAN, usually Ethernet. This separation of files from management information improves the performance of the SAN because it is optimized for the larger blocks of data associated with files rather than the relatively small blocks of file requests and such. However sending the SAN control information over the regular LAN can degrade performance if design isn't carefully considered.

According to Piyush Patel, director of multimedia and digital communications at Northern Oklahoma College (Tonkawa, OK), the school's multimedia lab (

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www.mmdclab) suffered from this problem when it was initially installed. A dedicated SAN supports the students learning digital video production and character animation in an intensive 16-week course that gives the storage system a heavy workout. Since the students are in class eight hours a day, six days a week, performance in critical to them in getting their projects done on time.

"We were initially on the school network, which is tapped into thousands of workstations and there's just too much traffic," Patel says. The school got a significant increase in SAN performance, Patel says, when it installed an Ethernet switch just for the lab and its 23 workstations. "Now a request can be directly processed and sent right back without having to travel through so many routers, hubs and switches," he says.


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.

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Related Book

Designing Storage Area Networks: A Practical Reference for Implementing Fibre Channel SANs 
Author : Tom Clark
Publisher : Addison Wesley
Summary : 
Storage Area Networks (SANs) powered by Fibre Channel technology far exceed the capabilities of traditional storage and throughput methods and are quickly becoming the solution of choice for organizations that require high-volume data handling capacity. Written for network developers, technical staff, IT consultants, administrators, and managers, Designing Storage Area Networks goes far beyond a straight description of Fibre Channel specifications and standards; it offers practical guidelines for implementing and utilizing SANs to solve the real-world needs of business networks.


This was first published in June 2001

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