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SAN Design Parameters

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Rising star

The quest for an intelligent storage area networking solution has been driven by the exponential growth in data processing volumes and resultant storage capacity. This infrastructure, the Storage Area Network (SAN), at a basic level provides the plumbing which must demonstrate such qualities as being scalable, highly available, manageable, serviceable, and secure. This is in line with any other data networking infrastructure. An intelligent SAN infrastructure is increasingly viewed as a corporate resource to be shared amongst multiple mission-critical applications and services. For example, many corporations are deploying web-based applications for e-Commerce and other financial services and have great need to deploy intelligent SANs in order to meet several business requirements which may be legal, contractual, or service level in nature. Most modern day SAN deployments have been limited either by the lack of capacity and advanced features in the existing switches or a concern for security. Cisco is the first SAN industry participant to take a view of the SAN as a true data network requiring intelligent network features and services required to take the next step in transitioning SANs into true networks.

As SANs continue to grow from a basic fan-out network used to increase connectivity to a storage device to more of a scalable network infrastructure, scalability becomes a prime concern. SANs must scale along with the growth in application data and must enable new capacity can be provisioned without causing any interruption to an application. As the SAN infrastructure becomes multi-protocol with protocols like iSCSI and FCIP, SANs must also provide intelligent services to distinguish amongst and manage various types of traffic and offer levels of services across the entire multiprotocol infrastructure. A SAN solution based on Cisco MDS 9000 Family platforms offers industry leading scalability both in terms of an individual switch perspective and an overall SAN perspective.

Data availability, data integrity, and data consistency requirements are critical and also contribute to the increased focus on the SAN infrastructure within an IT organization. From an application perspective, this can only be attained by an end-to-end (server-to-disk) strategic design and implementation of a high availability SAN. This sort of system-wide high availability includes such components as server and application clustering, I/O multi-pathing at both the server and network layers, automatic failover of storage and server resources to redundant paths, dynamic recovery of applications in a SAN and several other design attributes. With a growing focus on these components and features, high availability has evolved to be considered the base-line consideration required by all users deploying SANs. Most SAN switch manufacturers provide built-in hardware and software redundancy to enhance network availability. However, high availability design additionally involves network level resiliency. Cisco offers an extensive array of network availability services to compliment the switch-level resiliency offered by the Cisco MDS 9500 Directors.

One of the drivers towards the adherence to standards is cost. Enterprises have experienced that proprietary solutions are often expensive to implement and maintain. Many SAN environments thus far have evolved as proprietary protocol and service implementations by different vendors often leading to SAN islands that are difficult and expensive to manage. Potential economies of scale derived by infrastructure consolidation dictate the need for easier manageability of these same solutions. Lesser complexity via consolidation of management tools based on open standards often reduces management overhead by decreasing the number of people required to manage a SAN.

The topic of SAN security has quickly surfaced as a top priority in SAN designs. Any breach in security and integrity of application data can compromise revenue, company image, and the productivity of a corporation. As data volumes scale and becomes more mission critical, so does the requirement to secure such data. Not only must the infrastructure management be safe from prying eyes, it must also offer multiple levels of security based on policy and maintain the ability to scale. For example, a financial corporation will incur heavy losses from a variety of sources if their online data transactions are compromised. A loss of data due to a security breach or any other interruption for a retail corporation often results in a loss of revenue along with a tarnished corporate image. Cisco MDS 9000 Family incorporates multiple levels of security features in the form of roles-base management, SNMPv3 secure data access, frame-level access control lists (ACL) and virtual storage area networks (VSAN). A tiered security implementation ensures maximum protection for users and applications sharing the same fabric.

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