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The New World of Storage Area Networks: Visa Black Card and Albert Einstein’s Pre-frontal Cortex no longer required

Posted April 24th, 2013 by Sonny Singh

When Storage Area Networks (SANs) first started making a dent in IT data centers back in the early to mid-90’s, a corporation might as well have sold all their employees’ kidneys on the black market in order to swallow the astronomical costs associated with the implantation of a SAN. The other problem was the sheer complexity of SAN topologies. It wouldn’t have been a far stretch for the scientists at NASA having an easier time deploying a biosphere on Mars for humans to inhabit (in the next year) than deploying a SAN.

The tradeoff was that SANs promised (and delivered) a dedicated network that afforded access to consolidated, high-speed networks providing block level data storage. Another crucial business benefit was that long-term deployment costs would diminish because SANs allowed for the sharing of storage pools and offered simplified storage administration with added flexibility since traditional cables and cumbersome storage devices no longer had to be physically moved to shift storage from one server to another.

SANs were and are still primarily used to make storage devices, such as disk arrays, tape libraries, and optical jukeboxes, accessible to servers so that the devices appear like locally attached devices to the operating system (OS). A SAN typically has its own network of storage devices that are generally not accessible through the Local Area Network (LAN) by other devices. Thus, it was no surprise that the so-called “experts” believed Direct Access Storage (DAS) and LANs, at least in theory, would follow the same dismal fate as other archaic technologies because SANs would render them obsolete.

Well, that wasn’t exactly the case (just ask the guys making a killing on their prolific Network Attached Storage (NAS) and DAS solutions). The good news was that the overall cost and complexity of SANs dropped dramatically in the early 2000s to levels allowing wider adoption across both enterprise and small-to-medium sized business environments. Furthermore, SANs have become far easier to manage and deploy, thanks to seamless interoperability practices and the economies of scale generated by the growing number of installations worldwide.

Introducing the new Cisco MDS 9710 & 9250i Storage Directors

In keeping with the spirit of raising the bar for SANs, Cisco recently announced its next-generation SAN solutions supporting their Unified Data Center strategy to help customers merge networking, compute, and storage functions into one data center “fabric” for more efficient IT and business operations. The new Cisco MDS products allow customers to transform business operations with virtualized and cloud-based architectures that reduce expenses, operate more efficiently, provide better and faster business metrics, and offer new business services for corporate growth.

MDS 9710 Storage Director

  • 24 Tbps switching and 1.536 Tbps per slot capacity for Fibre Channel
  • N+1 fabric, fully redundant components and fault-tolerant architectural design
  • Provides a single platform for both high-density Fibre Channel and Fibre Channel over Ethernet while protecting customer investments
  • Supports multi-protocol environments and enables consistent SAN and LAN networking operations

MDS 9250i Fabric Switch

  • Improves efficiency by performing important storage services in the SAN fabric
  • Hosts services for easier SAN management, including Cisco I/O accelerator and Data Mobility Manager
  • Reduces time and resources required to perform common storage management functions
  • Simplifies and accelerates data protection for regulatory compliance

Emulex LightPulse 16Gb Fibre Channel Adapters – Maximizing Cisco MDS Storage Director Deployments

Emulex is a long-standing Cisco technology collaborator and we’re pleased to be a part of and to support the launch of the newest Cisco MDS Storage Director and Fabric Switch with Emulex’s industry-leading LighPulse 16Gb Fibre Channel (16GFC) Host Bus Adapter (HBA) technology. The LPe16000 16GFC HBA is the clear choice for the toughest virtualized, cloud and mission critical deployments utilizing Cisco MDS storage directors. The Emulex LightPulse 16GFC HBA features the Emulex bullet-proof driver-stack, backward compatibility to 4GFC and 8GFC HBAs and rock-solid reliability with a heritage that spans back to the first generation of Fibre Channel to today’s 16GFC HBAs.

The Emulex LightPulse 16GFC HBA ‘s advanced management functionality can shave days off installing and managing adapters and complements the MDS 9250i Fabric Switch’s host service capabilities for easier SAN management, including Cisco I/O Accelerator and Data Mobility Manager, which improve SAN efficiency by performing important storage services centrally in the fabric; reducing the time and resources required to perform common storage management functions; and simplifying and accelerating data protection for regulatory compliance.

Go ahead…keep your kidneys

It’s safe to say that traditional SAN technology will continue to be viewed as the de-facto storage protocol to meet storage growth needs for the foreseeable future. But don’t get me wrong, if SANs were easy to deploy and cheap to procure, everyone would be doing it, right? Remember, the costs associated with provisioning, scaling and managing SANs has grown quickly as well, creating an even bigger problem for data center managers struggling to meet growth needs with constrained budgets.

The good news is by appropriating a SAN strategy encompassing Cisco’s new MDS 9710 and 9250i Directors, coupled with Emulex LightPulse 16GFC HBA ‘s, you can manage your data center seamlessly and employ a SAN strategy that’s less painful, more cost effective and doesn’t require your employees to sell their kidneys (or other vital organs for that matter) on the black market.

For more information, check out Cisco’s press release here!

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