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Enterprises are continually seeking out cost-effective ways to manage the virtual explosion of information created by e-business and other initiatives. They are turning to Storage Area Networks (SANs) in droves to help solve this massive information explosion problem.
As you likely already know, SANs are a networked storage infrastructure designed to provide a flexible environment that decouples servers from their storage devices. SANs accomplish this by providing any-server-to-any-storage connectivity through the use of Fibre Channel switch fabric technology (commonly referred to as the SAN fabric). SANs address today's most challenging business requirements: how to protect and access critical data, how to utilize computing resources more efficiently, and how to ensure the highest levels of business continuity.
As information systems have become more tightly integrated, enterprises have also adopted applications that span multiple servers and maintain multiple and complex relationships with the enterprise's data. Infrastructure servers have also begun migrating to the blade architecture, and infrastructure storage has started moving from relatively simple direct attached storage to SANs. These technology and organizational trends have given rise to increasingly complex connectivity solutions.
SANs are proving to be a more scalable and manageable way of organizing your storage devices and servers. Information technology (IT) planners can now separate server decisions from storage decisions by using a SAN. This simplifies and streamlines infrastructure planning. In order to support their business needs, customers can now buy the right servers and the right storage, with the SAN providing connectivity as needed.
SANs have their historical roots in connection-oriented technologies such as enterprise system connection (ESCON) and small computer systems interface (SCSI). In order to enable the consolidation of SAN resources, and to provide switched data pathways across high-performance networks that connect servers to their data sets, SANs consist of dedicated resources. Thus, the business benefits of consolidated SANs include:
- Better enterprise business integration,
- Greater utilization and flexibility in storage systems,
- Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO), and
- A streamlined approach to disaster recovery.
SANs are the foundation for business continuity plans, and they provide the backbone for high-availability environments in the datacenter. And as more storage and processing devices are connected, SANs will need to span different processor and operating environment technologies and protocols. With all of the preceding in mind, let's begin looking at how the SAN fabric virtualization process delivers a key goal for storage administrators -- SANs that are easier to manage.