Understanding of a SAN - Storage Area Network

The SAN Solution

Most of the modern companies have a huge database. It could be regarding their clients, products, inventories, or employees. This information is used by multiple divisions within the same organization across multiple geographies. Ensuring easy and rapid access to consistent database is a big challenge for all companies and this is where SAN - Storage Area Network becomes so important.

In the typical server-client architecture, the client requests for service and the server provides it. Server would refer to its internal or local storage for database and information. Based on the database the request is services. However, with greater integration within the organization, multiple servers end up having the same database in their local storage. This leads to excess investment in retaining the same investment. It also brings out risks around database mismatches, which can lead to even greater financial losses to the organization.

NAS or network associated storage was considered to be the solution to this problem. With NAS the storage was now another element in the LAN connecting the various servers; so all servers had access to the same storage or the same database. This eliminated the risks around database mismatch and also the need to maintain multiple local duplicate copies.

NAS helped solve the problems in the traditional server-client model. However, it still retained the storage control with the server. This meant that every action in the storage element had to use server processing cycles. While the database was centralized, the server capacity was not being utilized efficiently.

The most inefficient operations were database mirroring and database backup. In both these operations, the storage element had to talk to another storage element and transfer information. Unfortunately, even for this, the server in NAS had to be involved. This problem is solved with SAN implementations.

SAN or storage Area Network is a network of storage devices that can talk to other storage devices. The SAN is based on the LAN concept and hence it is compatible with existing NAS implementations. This means that introducing SAN does not mean overhauling NAS solution in the organization.

The ability of SAN to allow storage elements to connect and talk with each other directly is a big advantage. Now actions like database backup and mirroring will not rely on server capacity at all. They can take place in parallel within SAN while servers work in the LAN.

The SAN solution extends itself perfectly for companies that do not have the server and storage collocated. In such cases, the storage elements need not eat into server LAN and WAN bandwidth for database transfers. It can be done directly through the high speed links in the SAN.


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