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Combining Switch Access and Shared Media
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Some companies are beginning to combine switched access and shared media in designing their SANs. The hard part is trying to determine which parts of the SAN to deploy as switched and which as shared. In a combination design, redundant arrays of independent disks (RAIDs) are attached to Fibre Channel switches, just a bunch of disks (JBODs) are connected to Fibre Channel hubs, and a tape drive is linked to a Fibre Channel bridge. For small sites (one or two servers and one or two RAIDs or JBODs), there are three choices:
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Stick with a SCSI-only model. Migrate to a point-to-point Fibre Channel network (with one NIC connected to each storage device). Implement a shared-access (hub-based) SAN using a loop topology.
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The main considerations are cost and ability to grow. Networks with multiple servers and intelligent arrays housing 500 GB or more of data are candidates for immediate adoption of a switch-based SAN. Consider a midsize company with three servers, multiple RAIDs, and a tape system. A mix of switched attachments to RAIDs, servers with arbitrated loops for multiple JBODs, and a bridgeattached tape system may be appropriate. Moreover, because this SAN is built around a switch, it allows for fault isolation and other switched fabric services. Of course, determining how much of a SAN should be shared and how much switched has to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Principal factors to consider are how missioncritical the data are, the distance requirements, the management of storage devices, the availability and disaster-recovery requirements, business continuity plans, and the ability to manage or cope with configuration management demands. Let s start with how critical data access is to an organization. In storage setups with parallel SCSI links, for example, the server is the control point. When a server fails, it may take 30 to 90 s for a reset, which could add up to thousands of dollars for a company that provides online billing transactions. In this instance, do not opt for a shared-media SAN because it does not eliminate the reset time; arbitrated loops go through a loop initialization process (LIP), causing the reset of all devices. If access to data is a competitive requirement, switched fabrics are the preferred way to go. If storage requirements include any real distances such as across multiple buildings, SCSI probably will not be suitable because there is a length limitation of about 70 m, even with SCSI hubs and repeaters. As for monitoring the status of devices in multiple buildings, Fibre Channel SANs offers built-in management facilities. Departments using JBODs on loops can be connected to switches on SAN backbones. Switched backbones then create a virtual data center by
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3 directly attaching servers and arrays with the loops, giving network managers the management data. Finally, when it comes to disaster tolerance, a switched fabric is the right choice. Creating redundant data centers 10 km or more apart requires high bandwidth synchronization that only switching offers. SAN setup is discussed in 4, Configuring SANs: Dos and Don ts.
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Managing a SAN
As for management of a SAN, it is suggested that you look to use all the tools and systems for your SAN that you use for your local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN). This means that you should look for SAN devices that can be managed via the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) or through the Web via the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). Devices also should support telnet (for remote diagnostics or servicing). Another option for reporting on SCSI devices is SCSI Enclosure Services (SES). All of these should furnish detailed information on device status, performance levels, configuration and topology changes, and historical data. Key status and performance information would include throughput and latency metrics. Future requirements will include a commitment to delivering tuning and optimization tools. In Fiber Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) networks, the hub furnishes management information on all devices within the loop. However, the hub cannot report on devices outside the loop. Of course, when loops are attached to a switching fabric, remote management and diagnostics are possible for all devices. When deciding on what scheme to use for connecting loops to switches, look for features that make the best use of loop tenancy, which is the time a device exclusively occupies the loop for data transfer. Consider devices that collate packets intended for a single target rather than adding the overhead of arbitrating for loop tenancy for each packet to be delivered. More on managing a SAN is presented in 6, Case Studies.
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