I've heard that companies have SAN islands, even within a single data center/campus. Why is that? What is the challenge with consolidating all servers and storage systems into one big SAN footprint?
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You don't have to tie all your SAN islands together into one large fabric in order to do this. Actually, it's BETTER to use SAN islands to separate data traffic. Once you start getting into large fabrics with 16 switches or more, you begin to run into situations where ISL traffic, collisions, over-subscription and fabric reconfigurations can have a huge impact on day-to-day business. In larger fabrics, name server space, alias uniqueness, zone configurations and traffic isolation become a problem. It's best to have 16 or fewer domains in a single fabric for these reasons. (For reference in this area, see Chris Beauchamp's SAN book ISBN# 1-928994-30).
These different SAN islands can all be managed using a single cross-platform SRM (storage resource management) tool. There are a number of SRM tools available from ISVs (independent software vendors) so you don't have to get "locked in" to a single solution. These tools allow you to achieve the benefits of consolidating storage management across all platforms in your company even when using SAN islands and storage from different hardware vendors. Make sure your SRM/SAM (another acronym!) that means storage area management conforms to the SMI-S standards initiative being pushed through the SNIA (Storage Network Industry Association).
Your storage management team should have the backing (and therefore the clout) of upper management so standards are adhered to. The group should consist of people from each systems admin group, your database admins group, your network group and fully trained folks who are intimately familiar with all the storage platforms and storage networking gear you have. Once this highly skilled team is in place and they become in charge of allocating storage resources for your business functions, your application guys can stop worrying about things like backup, data security and disaster recovery. It's the storage management team's job to make sure all that happens in the background, according to the SLA, no matter where the data is stored.
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