Is Going with a SAN Always a Smart Choice?

The hype surrounding Storage Area Networks has gotten so intense that it's almost as though anyone sticking to Direct Attached Storage must be living in the past. Our Datamation reporter looks at why it actually may be the smarter move.
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A Storage Area Network (SAN) is seen as the way to go in an enterprise of any size. That idea has caught on so strongly that even small businesses now are being wooed by the big storage vendors.

A panel at last month's Storage Networking World, for example, made the case for SANs in small business. One speaker even said that some its Fibre Channel (FC) products were targeted at small companies, calling them inexpensive. Few in the audience bought it.

''I don't see myself buying a SAN to replace my USB drive any time soon,'' quipped one attendee.

The hype has gotten so intense that it's almost as though anyone sticking to Direct Attached Storage (DAS) must be living in the past. You'd think it was akin to sticking to mules and kerosene lamps in the age of electricity and automobiles. Yet the missionary zeal behind the SAN movement may not always be the most economical route to follow.

Here we look at two organizations that continue to make heavy use of DAS and are happy with it.

''SAN vendors promise that a SAN increases storage utilization, consolidates administration, improves system performance, simplifies allocation and eases capacity expansion,'' says Joe Braud, chief IT architect for Virginia Beach, Va.-based Amerigroup Corp., a provider of managed health care services for the public sector. ''The reality is that SANs are complex, have poor interoperability, have inflexible deployment requirements and are extremely expensive.''

While Amerigroup does use SAN and storage virtualization technology extensively, he continues to utilize DAS at his disaster recovery (DR) site. Instead of installing a costly FC infrastructure and then having to match EMC arrays between his primary data center and DR site, he is content to rely on a simple collection of servers using DAS. To make this work, he also uses DataCore SANsymphony to create a virtualization layer about the SAN and DAS storage hardware.

''We've had good success as DAS works fine at the DR site,'' says Braud. ''This has saved us a lot of money in back-end FC.''

Continue on to see how DAS fits into the enterprise...

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