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FC-based SAN or shared storage array?

I am pre-planning and budgeting changes to our network for next year, which includes replacing three to six servers. I am looking very closely at a blade server implementation for that. The SAN issue naturally fits into this project, as it avails easier resource allocation and speeds up backups. Currently, I anticipate the need for a 1TB solution, which leaves us plenty of room to grow. Your article Storage networks: Right size for SMBs? commented on the simplicity of NAS vs. the need for dedicated staff for management of a FC-based SAN, to loosely paraphrase. I/we have no experience with FC-based SANs and so do not fully appreciate the complexity of managing an FC SAN. For a smaller SAN implementation, does management require special training? In your opinion, should I focus more on a NAS or shared storage array types of solutions, rather than trying to jump into FC-based SANs? Thank you in advance.

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What are your requirements regarding performance, availability and scaling? There are some FC SAN solutions that are prepackaged (sometimes called a SAN-in-a-box) that minimize the amount of administrative work -- at least for the initial installation. If you have applications that need to block access or require the best performance, then you should consider FC SANs. If you only need file access without critical performance demands, NAS will be less administration. If you go with an FC SAN, get educated. Take a look at SNIA or other companies that specialize in training.

This was first published in November 2004

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