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Building a Storage Area Network

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At our Network Computing Real-World Labs® in Green Bay, Wis., our primary testing SAN is a hybrid, with an Adaptec SANBlock-2 2-gigabit drive array, an Apple XServe Array and an Emulex Switch. We also have older Cisco and McData SAN switches, but we used just the Emulex switch to research this Workshop (not because it was better, but simply because it was readily available). Our two-way hyperthreaded servers with 3 GB of RAM use LSI Logic 2 Gigabit FC cards and run Windows 2000 SP 4.

Decisions, Decisions

One of the first tasks in designing a SAN is determining how much data to move from NAS and dedicated storage onto the SAN fabric. Moving just one application to a SAN isn't likely to provide you with an acceptable ROI unless that app is a bread-and- butter one. Exchange servers and databases are the best place to start when evaluating a SAN move.

Rather than require you drop the server, dismantle it, insert new drives and then work them into the system later, a SAN lets you add space and tell the system to ensure it's configured correctly. More SAN products now automatically portion out drives to needy logical volumes without your having to do anything other than click on a "looks good" button. And nearly all high-end SANs let you hot-swap drives to facilitate zero-downtime and disk space growth. These are benefits you're not likely getting from your dedicated storage, and they can make your users happier in the long run.

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