What is a Storage Area Network (SAN)?

A storage area network (SAN) is a dedicated high-speed network (or subnetwork) that interconnects  and presents shared pools of storage devices to multiple servers.

Storage Aera Network


SAN is all about the consolidation of multiple workloads into a shard pool of Capacity. The capacity is used depends on the host that a given volume/LUN is presented to. The disk array itself simply presents the capacity, any file system or OS requirement is driven by the host on the other side.

A storage area network is typically assembled using three principle components: cabling, host bus adapters (HBAs) and switches.  Each switch and storage system on the SAN must be interconnected and the physical interconnections must support bandwidth levels that can adequately handle peak data activities. 

Storage area networks are managed centrally and Fibre Channel SANs have the reputation of being expensive, complex and difficult to manage.  The emergence of iSCSI has reduced these challenges by encapsulating SCSI commands into IP packets for transmission over an Ethernet connection, rather than a Fibre Channel connection. Instead of learning, building and managing two networks -- an Ethernet local area network (LAN) for user communication and a Fibre Channel SAN for storage -- an organization can now use its existing knowledge and infrastructure for both LANs and SANs.

An emerging category of SAN is that of the solid state disk (SSD) array. While functionally similar to traditional disk arrays in that they present shared capacity to multiple hosts, these solid state-optimized platforms are capable of reaching absurdly high IO points with extremely low latency.

An example of a SAN solution we installed for a customer:


So the question is, should you be moving away from your current storage strategy and towards a Storage Area Network? This is not a simple answer. If you have the need to centralize or streamline your data storage then SAN may be right for you. However, the price tag of SAN equipment may still be out of reach of small businesses. If this is the case then your business may need to investigate other type’s storage solutions like Direct Attached Storage (DAS) or Network Attached Storage (NAS).

When assessing your storage requirements consider how much data you have now and how much new data you are likely to create every month. As ever before investing in a server solution you need to consider many things, including the applications you will run, storage, processor, form factor and much more. 

Want to buy a new Supermicro SAN Solution?, get contact with us via our contact page.