Finding a sane approach to growing enterprise storage

As the Internet economy continues to take pace and users demand data availability, the ideal solution for many companies is a Storage Area Network (SAN).

By Michael Young
Region Storage Program Manager,
Technical Consulting Organisation,
Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific

As the Internet economy continues to take pace and users demand data availability wherever they are, whatever time of day it is, companies need to find cost-effective ways of providing the high level of speed and data resilience they need. The ideal solution for many companies is a Storage Area Network (SAN).

 


By using SAN, performance can be increased significantly and the storage resources and network can be more resilient, scalable and easier to manage.


IT's big players have recognised that the Internet economy will create new demands for corporate IT and designed SAN solutions to offload the responsibility of managing, storing and recovering data. A SAN can be run remotely over the network without the company needing to allocate staff and time to storage.

A SAN can be defined as a highly scalable, managed network infrastructure of servers interconnected to storage devices, offering gigabit speed connectivity, high system availability, extensive fault tolerance and low cost of ownership.

 

Essentially, the main idea behind SAN is separating a company's storage resource from its server's CPU, expanding it and freeing it to be used by other processors on the network.

The storage resources are connected together in a network that is separate from the network of processors and workstations. The storage is combined into one large resource even though the storage resources may be physically located throughout the area covered by the network.

In the past IT managers have always had to balance networking performance against reliability and redundancy of data.

By using SAN, performance can be increased significantly and the storage resources and network can be more resilient, scalable and easier to manage.

SAN is an enabling technology and one that extends the reaches of the network beyond previous performance and distance limitations.

Whilst it is not central to the IT strategy, it is potentially an important extension to the infrastructure that will enable further growth of the network to take place easily and with minimal disruption and cost.

If the company is moving towards a more centralised strategy, SAN can also be viewed as an important part of that move. SAN does not remove any user's ability to store data, it only removes the burden from the file servers and this in itself has performance implications.

It does position the storage resources and the management of those resources under the control of the central IT department.

This means that the overall usage can be monitored more accurately and expansion can take place at the optimum point. No more storage than is really necessary will need to be deployed.

It also makes the deployment of fault tolerant systems, of RAID and of hierarchical managed solutions much easier. Redundancy can be provided across the whole network from a central resource without the storage needing to be physically centralised.



Storage has often been viewed as the unglamorous side of the IT industry and assessed in terms of capacity, not as a key element of the overall system and an influence on overall performance. However because of the sheer value of enterprise data in the modern business, organisations can no longer afford to take the risk of having their storage resource unprotected and unable to scale.

With storage now accounting for more than 50 percent of IT spending, the contribution that storage is making to business is now being recognised.

With the benefits of SAN solutions now being realised by a wider market, SAN now looks set to become as commonplace as managed storage and RAID solutions. It can be used together with these solutions as part of an effective set of strategies and policies for managing storage resources.

The common sense of the SAN concept is undeniable - it is a technology all organisations with a growing need for manageable storage across the network should consider with a view to implementing at the earliest opportunity.

 


Michael Young is the storage program manager for the technical consulting arm of Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific.

Hewlett-Packard recently launched the XP512 disk array which makes use of cross-bar architecture borrowed from server technology to speed up data transfer.