Storage area network arrays power data-intensive enterprise applications and allow businesses to pool storage from multiple devices. Advances in SAN technology have made storage networking a strong choice for supporting mission-critical workloads and connecting distributed business applications. The following SAN arrays offer features like multi-protocol support, data protection, and customer support.
Best SAN storage arrays
- Dell EMC PowerMax
- NetApp ASA AFF
- Hitachi Vantara VSP
- Pure Storage FlashArray
- HPE Primera
- IBM SAN
- Dell EMC PowerVault ME4 Series
- SAN use cases
- SAN vs. NAS
- How to choose a SAN vendor
- Bottom line: SAN storage solutions
Dell EMC PowerMax
Dell EMC PowerMax is the high-end storage offering from the massive Dell storage portfolio. The Dell EMC PowerMax family offers high levels of performance and scale using next-generation storage class memory (SCM) and high-speed SAN infrastructure.
The solution targets mission-critical apps with end-to-end NVMe, real-time machine learning, and a wealth of data services. It also improves storage efficiency with a guaranteed data reduction of almost four to one. Dell also offers cloud mobility: users can move data from PowerMax to AWS, Azure, and Dell EMC ECS cloud environments.
Dell customers have the option to pay for technology over a set amount of time or to pay as they use. Pay-per-use is good for varied workloads; set payment plans help businesses with consistent budget needs.
- Security features like digital signatures for firmware updates and anomaly detection
- Block, file and mainframe workload consolidation on one array
- Inline deduplication and compression
- End-to-end encryption
- NVMe-based arrays provide high performance
- Customer support received high ratings from multiple users
- Because PowerMax is an enterprise-grade solution, it may be too expensive for small businesses or challenging for less experienced teams to manage
Read more about storage area network security.
NetApp ASA AFF
NetApp all-flash FAS (AFF) arrays offer both NAS and SAN functionality. NetApp also has an all-SAN array (ASA) configuration option, NetApp ASA AFF. NetApp offers six nines of availability.
NetApp SAN solutions are intended to be able to support Oracle and SAP applications, which are often data-intensive workloads that require speed and heavy processing. NVMe storage with flexible access over Ethernet transports such as NVMe/TCP and NVMe/RoCE can also address modern NoSQL and high-performance computing workloads and distributed file systems. High IOPS and low latency also support mission-critical applications in these environments.
NetApp customers will need to purchase an AFF solution and then configure ASA on top of it. Contact NetApp sales for AFF array pricing.
- Low latency storage media – flash/NVMe, SCM, and PMEM deliver orders of magnitude more IOPS compared to magnetic media
- NVMe-oF capabilities
- Data management features built over a common foundation across all protocols, enabling customers to move existing SAN workloads and use copyless migration
- Support for multiple storage protocols, including NVMe
- Integrations with public and private cloud environments
- ASA is configured through software atop NetApp’s all-flash FAS platform, so customers will need to deploy the AFF Series and then configure ASA
- An AFF to an ASA configuration is irreversible
Hitachi Vantara VSP
The Hitachi Vantara Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) includes the G series, F series, 5000 series, and E Series. The newest series, E, is a mid-range enterprise storage solution that supports both NVMe and SAS drives and encryption for data at rest. Hitachi Vantara’s high-end and midrange storage systems leverage a common architecture and operating system, providing a simplified management and protection experience.
Customers can select their payment model through Hitachi’s payment solution EverFlex. Options include direct purchase, lease, and pay-per-use. Contact Hitachi Vantara for more specific pricing details.
- Support for NVMe drives as well as SAS
- AI-powered software tools within Hitachi Ops Center simplify management and improve IT operational efficiencies
- Supports RAID 1, 5, and 6
- Highly-reviewed support team
- Solid stability and performance
- A few users complained about the administrative software or the overall management console
Pure Storage FlashArray
Pure Storage offers two arrays: FlashArray//X is aimed at high performance while FlashArray//C is the high-capacity product. Depending on the application and environment, one array will be preferable. Each are all-flash NVMe arrays, with NVMe-oF functionality.
These arrays serve needs ranging from departmental to large-scale enterprise deployments. They provide performance, reliability, and availability for mission-critical operations—both block and file. FlashArray//C is focused more on consolidating workloads with consistent all-flash NVMe performance and data protection.
Pure Storage pricing for individual FlashArray solutions is available from the vendor. Alternatively, Pure Storage customers can use Evergreen//One, Pure’s storage-as-a-service offering, to manage their storage environments if they have multiple Pure solutions.
- Evergreen Storage, an as-a-service consumption model that decreases upgrade cycles and downtime
- Always-on deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning
- Business continuity and global disaster recovery features through PurityActiveCluster, which is available for all FlashArray products
- Data portability between on-premises and public cloud storage and applications
- NVMe over Fabrics capability for data centers and other organizations that want to use that technology
- All-flash, which means higher speeds and fewer failures
- Potential integration with the rest of Pure’s impressive storage portfolio
- Flash-only may be challenging for storage teams largely experienced in disk
- Cost will be too high for some SMBs
Like Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has accumulated a lot of different storage array vendors over the years. Its extensive portfolio includes HPE Primera, Nimble Storage, 3PAR, and XP series, some of which are the remains of storage and SAN startup pioneers.
Primera targets high-end storage arrays and Tier 0 mission-critical workloads. HPE storage arrays include support for NVMe media, peer persistence, VMware vVOLs, Kubernetes, and container automation. Users can manage Primera storage from Greenlake, HPE’s cloud operations platform, a beneficial capability for organizations that use both Primera and HPE Alletra.
HPE has financing available through HPE Financial Services (HPEFS). Potential customers can request a quote for specific pricing information.
- AIOps data platform based on InfoSight for automation
- Workload mobility across hybrid cloud assets
- GreenLake consumption-based offering, which provides nondisruptive future upgrades and refreshes
- Up to four controllers for redundancy and support for RAID 6
- 100% availability guarantee from HPE
- Highly rated scalability
- Integration with InfoSight for machine learning
- Primera only has eight slots that support NVMe drives in a single controller node
IBM continues to provide traditional SAN switches and directors while also embracing newer technologies such as all-flash in its FlashSystem and hybrid arrays. There are many arrays to choose from, including the high-end DS8900F for primary storage workloads.
The entire product portfolio utilizes a common storage operating system, common APIs, and common management to simplify integration and architectural design. They are also easy to integrate with the massive family of IBM hardware, middleware, and software offerings. Because IBM SAN Volume Controller supports multiple different storage solutions, teams that use SVC can use a variety of storage systems in one network.
IBM has both a straight pricing model with four different tiers and a storage-as-a-service offering. Contact IBM for a specific quote.
- High-capacity flash drives
- Write support for Global Mirror primary devices
- Transparent cloud tiering
- Integration with IBM Storage Insights, which provides performance data that teams can use to improve networks
- Support for Kubernetes and OpenShift
- Support for a wide range of storage systems
- May be challenging for small businesses with limited storage experience to provision and manage a large, multi-protocol SAN
Dell EMC PowerVault ME4 Series
The Dell EMC PowerVault ME4 Series is more aimed at affordability, lacking the extreme performance of some of the higher-end arrays. It provides SAN and direct-attached storage (DAS) and is optimized to run a variety of mixed workload applications, physical and virtual, mainly for small and mid-sized businesses.
DAS can be used to consolidate block storage, support data intensive applications, take advantage of intelligent data management, or optimize virtual environments. Teams can add more storage capacity through Disk Array Enclosures. PowerVault comes with distributed RAID for faster drive rebuild times.
Dell has detailed PowerVault ME4 pricing on its website, depending on the specific array and customization choices like hard drives.
- Drive-level encryption, including offline drives
- Replication and snapshots for file recovery
- Thin provisioning in virtual mode, which saves energy and drive space
- Alignment with Dell PowerEdge Servers provides easy integration and infrastructure design
- Supports a wide range of mixed drive types
- implements a block architecture with VMware virtualization integration and concurrent support for native iSCSI, Fibre Channel, and SAS protocols
- No NVMe support
Read about our picks for Fibre Channel hardware for SAN deployments.
SAN use cases
Storage area networks are good choices for the following enterprise environments and use cases:
- Data centers with multiple storage systems that need to be connected on a network
- Organizations with multiple branch offices that need to pool stored data
- Multi-site backup procedures and recovery
- Databases that support mission-critical workloads and data-intensive, rapid-access applications
- Virtual environments that support high-performing applications, rapid I/O requirements, and scalability
SAN vs. NAS
Network-attached storage allows businesses to store and pool large numbers of files and access them in a single location. NAS is particularly beneficial for enterprises with heavy file storage needs. Examples include healthcare providers with customer medical records and financial services organizations that store forms.
Additionally, NAS systems enable file sharing between devices. If your teams consistently share files, NAS is beneficial. Scale-out NAS systems can also be useful for big data storage and analytics, though you’ll need a high-performance system for any mission-critical big data applications. Note that NAS systems transmit data more slowly than SAN overall.
Broadly speaking, NAS devices and systems are less expensive than a SAN. While this can vary depending on the size and quality of the NAS versus the SAN, NAS tends to be a more affordable solution, as well as easier to deploy.
Storage area networks are beneficial for enterprise-grade backup procedures. SANs help businesses back up storage systems that are on the same network. Although backing up the entire SAN takes time and system memory, it also allows organizations to store a whole network’s worth of data in remote data centers. Although this level of backup requires significant time and system resources, it’s an important feature for large businesses with multiple storage arrays.
SANs can also support databases that hold data for mission-critical applications. Because of storage networks’ low latency, they can meet the quick access requirements for databases that support organizations’ most data-intensive workloads. SANs typically have lower latencies than NAS systems.
Some organizations use both NAS and SAN depending on their storage needs.
Learn more about the differences between NAS and SAN in enterprise storage environments.
How to choose a SAN vendor
To select a SAN vendor, consider how its features, integrations, and management capabilities can fit your specific business needs. The following selection criteria will help your organization narrow down suitable SAN arrays:
- Evergreen: Look for SAN solutions that can be non-disruptively upgraded for added capacity, faster performance, or new software capabilities.
- Simplicity: Ease of deployment, operations and management are essential in an age when few want to invest in a team of storage management experts.
- Integration: Look for automation and integration with leading hypervisor, container, and orchestration platforms via industry standard APIs
- Performance: Fast and consistent performance in the form of low latency and non-disruptively scalable controllers enable businesses to run without disruption.
- Efficiency: Data reduction includes built-in compression, deduplication, and thin provisioning.
- Security: This should include built-in encryption of data at rest as well as the ability to encrypt data in motion.
- AIOps: AI-generated support and proactive recommendations make sure applications run smoothly, minimize any business disruption, and reduce the need for specialized storage expertise.
- Portability: Ease of data portability between on-premises and cloud helps workloads receive consistent enterprise-grade data services.
Bottom line: SAN storage solutions for businesses
Storage networking helps businesses pool data from multiple storage systems, decreasing information silos, and use that data to support their most important applications. Modern SAN technologies like NVMe-oF allow organizations to rapidly share data across large environments like data centers.
Although SAN storage solutions require both personnel and financial investment to successfully implement, they’re worthwhile for enterprises with virtual environments, large databases, and intensive backup procedures. Consider one of our picks for SAN setups if your organization needs a more efficient way to transfer and store data.
Read about SAN trends next.