SAN will save you costs

The implementation of a Storage Area Network provides the maximum investment protection for a customer as future products, both servers and storage, can be non-disruptively added to the SAN at very little incremental cost, says Rick Sewell of Compaq Asia Pacific.

The implementation of a Storage Area Network provides the maximum investment protection for a customer as future products, both servers and storage, can be non-disruptively added to the SAN at very little incremental cost This is the second article in a series of one-to-one interviews with storage vendors on the issues of storage area networks and storage interoperability.

That was the view of Rick Sewell, Compaq’s Asia Pacific marketing manager for Enterprise Storage Group. With some 20 years experience in the IT industry, Sewell has worked in countries all over the Asia Pacific region, giving him a unique insight into the industry here.

He gives an example: The implementation of a CRM application will increase the amount of storage an organization requires, as will any new application. Many application vendors issue lists of certified hardware configurations so that customers know what hardware, servers and storage, have been tested and shown to work with this application. Therefore, it is in the interest of all storage vendors to have alliances with not only CRM vendors but also all major application vendors.

The major benefit to the customer of these alliances is that the choice of hardware platforms is simplified and has been proven to work.

According to Sewell, storage interoperability is available today and the initial offerings allow organizations that have disparate storage products to create a single SAN with multi-vendor data zones.

To ensure that the Open Storage Area Network (SAN) becomes a reality for customers, IBM and Compaq formed an alliance in July last year to develop interoperability standards between each company’s products. The initial results of this alliance were demonstrated at Storage Networking World in November 2000 where data was migrated over a SAN between IBM and Compaq storage platforms and IBM storage platforms were backed up over the SAN to a Compaq tape library.

In June this year, Compaq and five other storage-networking companies announced a number of Open SAN supported solutions that would allow Compaq and other storage company’s products to share the same SAN fabric, albeit in separate data zones. Compaq is also a founding member of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) an organization committed to defining open standards in storage networking.

In the next 24-36 months, this interoperability will be enhanced to remove the requirement for separate data zones so that there will be total interoperability between different storage vendor’s products.

When it comes to integration with existing equipment, Sewell says that the key requirement is not necessarily to fit in seamlessly with existing customer technologies but to provide the maximum investment protection for the customer.

With this in mind, customers can choose open connectivity technologies such as SCSI and Fiber Channel. They can also upgrade older SCSI controllers to Fiber Channel. This allows older storage devices to be added to a fiber channel SAN to take advantage of higher throughput and longer distances from the server. From finance, insurance, manufacturing, transportation, telecommunications to government, all industry segments are seeing an explosive growth in their storage requirements, says Sewell. Compaq’s server and storage revenue grew 20 percent year-over-year with strength across all their high-end product lines.

In terms of storage developments, he sees SAN, DAS and NAS as being complementary rather than competing technologies, each playing a role in an organization. Compaq is developing solutions that allow Network Attached Storage and Direct Attached Storage to be accessible from the SAN. This will allow an organization to eventually have all of its storage accessible from any server attached to the SAN.

The other major technology development will be the introduction of virtualization where the entire SAN is defined by virtual storage pools rather than physical storage boxes. Compaq’s virtualization solution, VersaStor, will allow customers to define virtual storage pools and non-disruptively move data from one pool to another. With VersaStor, the customer will be able to easily manage a SAN with minimal staff as the customer now manages virtual pools and VersaStor looks after the physical location of data. Data location will be defined by desired performance and availability attributes rather than physical location.

A SAN also provides an ideal environment for backup. With an enterprise backup solution, all servers and storage attached to the SAN can be backed up to a single tape library. Coupled with cloning technologies like Compaq SANworks Enterprise Volume Manager or Virtual Replicator, a customer can set up a backup environment where backups are achieved with almost no interruption to application availability.

Before long, SAN management will surface as an issue. As the amount of storage increases, the management of it will require either more people, who are hard to find, or smarter management tools and techniques. Currently, Compaq’s SAN Management Appliance supports a number of management applications, including Allocation Reporting, Performance Management, Storage Area Network Management and SAN Element Management

It now looks like a SAN strategy will allow customers to focus on managing their business rather than their storage.

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