Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Building a Fibre Channel SAN

We have roughly 800 nodes and a data infrastructure that evolved through years of organic growth. The school has a mix of 26 servers, all using DAS (direct-attached storage) and running six operating systems.

To simplify the day-to-day administration and improve the reliability of these systems, we decided to move our critical systems off DAS and onto a SAN. We sent out an RFP that called for putting five existing servers running user storage, e-mail, database and intranet applications onto a SAN based on a 2-Gbps Fibre Channel switch. We specified a Fibre Channel storage device with more than 3 GB of storage, basic management software, HBAs (host bus adapters) and cables. The SAN had to be expandable and support Windows, Linux and Mac servers. The school's existing Dantz Development Retrospect backup scheme with AIT changers was recycled for the new SAN to save some money in the short term.

We weren't surprised, though, when the first round of quotes came back in the $90,000 range. Even an EMC solution bid of $69,000 was too high for our school budget.

Because maximum performance wasn't the top priority, we looked at various flavors of ATA and SCSI drives riding a Fibre Channel backplane. After studying solutions from Adaptec, nStor Corp. and others, we settled on Apple's new Xserve RAID. It doesn't quite offer enterprise-level Fibre Channel performance, but the form factor of 14 hot-swap ATA bays, 3.5 TB with existing drive technology, redundant components and simple management tools--as well as the price--couldn't be beat. Xserve also guaranteed compatibility with our Mac servers, which wasn't easy to find in the SAN world.

Bargain Basement SAN

Click to Enlarge

  • 1