Storage area networks provide the communication infrastructure that connect storage devices such as disk arrays to servers. In common practice, the term “SAN” is used to refer to a complete storage infrastructure, including all the hardware and software involved in providing shared access to central storage devices from multiple servers. In effect, a SAN is a sub-network that is used for shared storage.
A SAN is made up of “storage arrays” that are composed of physical disks, enclosures, and storage pools of RAID drives. SANs can also accommodate tape drive libraries. All storage resources in a SAN are tied together by communication links, that can include fiber channel, iSCSI, and fiber channel over Ethernet, bound together by host bus adapter cards that work to link the storage resources to servers. This flexibility of combining a multitude of storage resources makes SANs a excellent method to centralize data storage in order to make it available throughout the enterprise.
Webhosting.net specializes in providing SANs to mid- and large-sized businesses. SANs effectively are tools that leverage economies of scale. SANs are advantageous for businesses that have a large number of servers that need to be consolidated. In larger organizations, they allow not only for consolidated equipment silos, but the consolidation of ongoing IT costs.
The deployment of SANs is also beneficial since it frees up IT resources on a corporate network; allows for storage requirements to scale up or down when necessary; and facilitates easier backup processes.
SANs allow for dynamic storage management, whereby storage volumes can be created, re-sized and destroyed on demand. SANs allow for a type of “storage portfolio portability” where storage volumes can be ported from one server to another. Flexibility afforded by SANs allow for the allocation of additional storage to a server or system with only a few minor configurations.
SANs are recognized for its capacity to contain large storage devices, allowing for much greater storage spaces than what a single server could achieve. In terms of performance, a well-configured SAN can handle heavy concurrent loads from multiple servers. In terms of backup, SANs allow for direct data replication from storage arrays to SAN-connected tape libraries, completely bypassing servers which actually use the data. Two or more storage arrays can even be configured for synchronous replication, allowing for the complete redirection of server input/output from one to another in fault or disaster scenarios.
SANs also allow for real-time snapshots of data from single volumes or whole storage pools. This means corporate customers need not purchase new disks and install them on an ad hoc basis when utilizing a SAN. Most importantly, SANs have high fault tolerances. An excellent SAN is designed for high availability, and all equipment associated with it should be, by definition, more reliable. That includes: power supply, redundant disks and controllers, along with multi-path storage input/outputs to route data to different storage devices.
With all these advantages, medium to large-sized clients are right to investigate deploying a SAN to both “serve and protect” their data.
Webhosting.Net differentiates itself from its competition by using Nimble Storage arrays for its SAN provision. Nimble Storage arrays efficiently store and serve up data fast enough to satisfy the most demanding applications, including Microsoft SQL Server to virtual desktop interfaces. Using fast flash solid state drives to dynamically cache hot data to accelerate reads and leveraging a write-optimized data layout to speed up data written to storage, Nimble delivers more input/output operations per second (IOPS) than traditional storage systems that use tape or traditional mechanical drives.
Webhosting.Net customers therefore benefit from blistering speed, due to accelerated data reads from the solid state drives. Optimized Webhosting.net systems are capable of accelerating data writes to its SANs by as much as 100x, resulting in sub-millisecond latency and optimal disk utilization. The system is also capable of taking thousands of snapshots per volume with no performance impact and can back up and restore data in minutes and create frequent recovery points. Another strength is that the system can take application-focused backups, which simplifies data protection for demanding enterprise applications such as Exchange, Oracle and SQL Server. The snapshot model even benefits virtual desktop interface users, by allowing for the creation of desktop environment clones in second, thereby saving disk space for VDI testing and development.
With all these benefits, Webhosting.net’s SAN deployment can be considered superior than more traditional SAN offerings. Due to the advantages offered by Webhosting.net’s SAN model, corporate clients should strongly consider us for their storage area network projects.