Storage area networking (SAN) technology will expand into the realm of mainstream computing this year from its current niche in advanced multimedia applications, according to Roger Klorese, director of SAN product management for Veritas Software.
SAN is a set of hardware and software technologies that link disk storage units together in much the same way as LANs (local area networks) tie together PCs. Benefits to end-users include an easier route to high availability, the ability to add storage capacity in smaller increments, and a more flexible approach to network management, Klorese said.
Speaking at the SAN Technology Forum 1999 here Friday, Klorese said that SAN is already being trialled mostly in the US by financial institutions, telecommunications companies, the manufacturing sector and major Internet content providers.
According to Klorese, the need for a more intelligent approach to disk and tape storage has come about due to changes in the way in which major organiaations view their data.
"IT used to be just about data processing -- payrolls, manufacturing systems and so on," he said. "But in the last few years, organisations have come to see information itself as one of the core assets of their business."
SAN uses fibre channel or SCSI (small computer systems interface) connections to link the storage elements together, and this can be managed from a system console to provide a storage resource transparently available to any user, Klorese said.
"In an any-to-any storage architecture like SAN you can expect greater speed of response, and when you need to add capacity, you can add it for the use of an organisation as a whole, not for a particular department," he said.
Intelligence built into SAN also helps to overcome an imbalance between processing and data -- transactions typically consist of a large number of small packets of data being transmitted, while disks are better at sending large chunks of data at high bandwidth, Klorese said. SAN would be better at eliminating bottlenecks than simply putting in a faster network backbone, he added.
The need for high availability could also drive adoption of SAN in the commercial mainstream, Klorese said.
"Many more companies see the need to have their systems available on a 24 by 7 basis," he said. "Where we can use more devices capable of taking over from one that has failed in an SAN cluster, it can dramatically reduce the cost of providing high availability."
Several issues still need to be addressed to make SAN a widespread technology, Klorese said, including standards between different vendors for clustering, direct back-up and restore, support for the integration of fiber channel and SCSI, and storage resource management.
But he said that storage hardware vendors and software suppliers are actively partnering to solve these issues and provide continuous evolution of the SAN concept.
"Sun Microsystems said that the network is the computer," Klorese said. "We believe that the storage network is the computer."