SAN: Storage Area Networks

What does SAN do?

A storage area network provides block-level network access to storage. They typically consist of hosts, switches, storage elements, and storage devices. These components are interconnected through various technologies, topologies, and protocols. Some key purposes of SAN are to improve application availability, enhance application performance, increase storage utilization and effectiveness. Along with all these purposes, SAN plays a vital role in an organizations business continuity management activity, also known as BCM. SAN moves storage off of a common user network and transfers it into another high-performance network. This allows multiple networks to access a shared network as if it were a drive directly attached to the server. SAN typically has its own network of storage devices which are not accessible from the local are networks, also known as LAN, by other devices. These storage area networks are very commonly based on Fiber Channel, FC, technology that utilizes the Fiber Channel Protocol, FCP. The fiber channel protocol is used for open systems and proprietary variants for mainframes. Along with the FCP, there is FCoE, which stands for fiber channel over ethernet. The FCoE makes it possible for fiber channel traffic to move traffic across existing high speed ethernet infrastructures and converge storage and IP protocols over a single cable. Along with the technologies listed above, iSCSI which stands for small computing system interface, is commonly used in small and medium sized organizations as a less expensive alternative to fiber channels which are more commonly used in high performance computing environments. With all that said, it is very possible to move data between different SAN technologies.

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