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How much storage management is enough?

This tip discusses rules of thumb for FC-AL management.

Anytime you have multiple storage devices, you need to manage those devices in some fashion. But management is always a tradeoff: control v. cost. While it might be desirable to know everything about your storage devices and your storage network, knowing everything inevitably means you need more bandwidth, which means more hardware, more code, etc., to handle all the management info that knowing everything entails. More bandwidth equals more cost.

So you have to make decisions about how much management is enough, and how much is too much. And while such decisions are a function of many factors, there are at least two rules of thumb that you can use to evaluate your SAN management situation.

  1. More complexity means more management. This seems to be a no-brainer. When things are more complex, they break more. That means you need visibility on the components of the system to ensure you know what broke, or what is about to.
  2. Unlike a common Ethernet, when you're using FC-AL for your SAN, in-band management is not the preferred method. So plan on using out-of-band management through a separate Ethernet connection to your SAN components.

Vendors are scrambling to provide better management capabilities for SANs as storage requirements become ever greater. The appropriate level of management will greatly assist you in keeping your SAN operating at max efficiency.

Vixel has a white paper, "A management strategy for the Fibre Channel arbitrated loop," available on the IBM Storage Web site.

David Gabel is executive technology editor for TechTarget Inc.

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