What Is a Storage Area Network?

 

A Storage Area Network (SAN) is a specialized, high-speed network that provides block-level network access to storage. SANs are typically composed of hosts, switches, storage elements, and storage devices that are interconnected using a variety of technologies, topologies, and protocols. SANs may also span multiple sites.

SANs are often used to:

  • Improve application availability (e.g., multiple data paths)
  • Enhance application performance (e.g., off-load storage functions, segregate networks, etc.)
  • Increase storage utilization and effectiveness (e.g., consolidate storage resources, provide tiered storage, etc.), and improve data protection and security.

SANs also typically play an important role in an organization's Business Continuity Management (BCM) activities.

A SAN presents storage devices to a host such that the storage appears to be locally attached. This simplified presentation of storage to a host is accomplished through the use of different types of virtualization.

A Storage Area Network (SAN) is a specialized, high-speed network that provides block-level network access to storage. SANs are typically composed of hosts, switches, storage elements, and storage devices that are interconnected using a variety of technologies, topologies, and protocols. SANs may also span multiple sites.

A SAN presents storage devices to a host such that the storage appears to be locally attached. This simplified presentation of storage to a host is accomplished through the use of different types of virtualization.

Figure 1-2

SANs are often used to:

  • Improve application availability (e.g., multiple data paths)
  • Enhance application performance (e.g., off-load storage functions, segregate networks, etc.)
  • Increase storage utilization and effectiveness (e.g., consolidate storage resources, provide tiered storage, etc.), and improve data protection and security.
  • SANs also typically play an important role in an organization's Business Continuity Management (BCM) activities.

A SAN presents storage devices to a host such that the storage appears to be locally attached. This simplified presentation of storage to a host is accomplished through the use of different types of virtualization.

SANs are commonly based on Fibre Channel (FC) technology that utilizes the Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) for open systems and proprietary variants for mainframes. In addition, the use of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) makes it possible to move FC traffic across existing high speed Ethernet infrastructures and converge storage and IP protocols onto a single cable. Other technologies like Internet Small Computing System Interface (iSCSI), commonly used in small and medium sized organizations as a less expensive alternative to FC, and InfiniBand, commonly used in high performance computing environments, can also be used. In addition, it is possible to use gateways to move data between different SAN technologies.

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SNIA’s impartial educational programs enable the IT professional to keep abreast of the rapid technology changes in the industry and enable the community to plan accordingly for the future.