How To Install Your First SAN - InformationWeek

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8/23/2005
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How To Install Your First SAN

Adding a storage area network (SAN) to your computing environment doesn't need to be a difficult experience. We show you how.

Welcome to Accidental IT, a series of technical how-tos for people whose job descriptions don't necessarily include tech support but who often find themselves doing just that for their co-workers.

Your company has outgrown its disk drive capacity...again. It's time to add yet another drive to your server. Aside from the fact that your server case only has room for one more drive, there are so many things that can go wrong during the upgrade that you're dreading taking the system down. Not only are your applications and data in jeopardy, but since you need to do the upgrade outside regular business hours, you're expecting to lose the entire weekend. Maybe it's finally time to install an external set of drives on its own high-speed network. Yep, we're talking about a SAN (storage area network).

To be sure, the decision to install a SAN is not one to be taken lightly. Despite the inconvenience and pain you experience every time you add a drive to a server, the level of planning and knowledge required to properly configure and install a SAN is much more intense. In addition, the cost of a SAN is on par with the cost of a server. However, the advantages of the SAN architecture can far outweigh both the costs and implementation complexities.

SANs offer operating system independence, easy expansion, and can supply storage to multiple servers simultaneously. You can start with a few drives and add more without taking the servers or the drive system down. The design of most SAN devices allows you to choose which and how many drives are arranged in your RAID configuration, and these systems are designed for high reliability.

Planning

All SAN devices have their own features and setup procedures. What is common among them is the need to carefully plan your setup and configuration according to how the system will be used. A part of the planning process is validating the configuration of your SAN design. Configuring a SAN is not something to do without reading and following the manufacturer's instructions to the last detail.

An advantage to SAN devices is the flexibility they offer in expansion and connections. SAN networks can grow to include multiple SAN cabinets connected to multiple SAN switches and multiple servers. For our initial installation we will assume a single SAN cabinet connected to two Windows servers. Your network may include more than two servers, and all of them can access the SAN, but the connection path is through the two fibre channel-attached servers.

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