Many IT organizations today are scratching their heads debating whether the advantages of implementing a SAN solution justify the associated costs. Others are trying to get a handle on today’s storage options and whether SAN is simply Network Attached Storage spelled backwards. In this article, I introduce the basic purpose and function of a SAN and examine its role in modern network environments. I also look at how SANs meet the network storage needs of today’s organizations and answer the question, could a SAN be right for you.
Peel away the layers of even the most complex technologies and you are likely to find that they provide the most basic of functions. This is certainly true of storage area networks (SANs). Behind the acronyms and revolutionary headlines, lies a technology designed to provide a way of offering one of the oldest of network services, that of making access to data storage devices available to clients.
In very basic terms, a SAN can be anything from two servers on a network accessing a central pool of storage devices to several thousand servers accessing many millions of megabytes of storage. Conceptually, a SAN can be thought of as a separate network of storage devices physically removed from, but still connected to, the network. SANs evolved from the concept of taking storage devices, and therefore storage traffic, off the LAN and creating a separate back-end network designed specifically for data.
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