Storage Area Networks

With the rapid growth of electronic commerce, the Enterprise Resource Planning system that basically integrates application data across the organization, and data warehouses that keep historical aggregate information, the demand for storage has to go up substantially. For today’s Internet Driven organization, it has become necessary to move from a static fixed data center oriented operation to a more flexible and dynamic infrastructure for their information processing requirements. Many users of RAID system cannot use the capacity effectively because it has to be attached to a concept called Storage Area Network (SAN).

In a SAN, online storage peripherals are configured as nodes on a high-speed network and can be attached and de-attached from servers in a very flexible manner. Many companies have come up as SAN providers and provide their own proprietary topologies. They basically allow storage systems to be placed at the longer distance from the servers and provide different performance and connectivity options.

Existing storage management applications can be ported into SAN configuration using Fibre Channel networks that encapsulate the legacy SCSI protocol. As a outcome of which the SAN-attached devices appear as SCSI devices. Current architectural alternatives for SAN include the following:

  1. Point to point connection between the storage system and servers via Fibre Channel.
  2. Use of Fibre Channel switches to connect Multiple RAID systems, tape libraries and so on to servers.
  3. Use of Fibre Channel hubs and switches to connect servers and storage system in the different configuration.

Main advantages claimed are following:

  1. Flexible for many to many connectivity among servers and storage device with the help of fibre channel hubs and switches.
  2. Up to 10 Km separation between a server and a storage system using appropriate fibre optic cables.
  3. Better isolation capabilities allowing the nondisruptive addition of new servers and peripherals.

Use of SANs are increasing rapidly but it still facing many problems such as combining storage option from multiple vendors and dealing with evolving standards of storage management software and hardware. Most major companies are evaluating SAN as a viable option for database storage.

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