Although the rate of adoption of storage area networks at the end-user level is difficult to gauge, SANs represent the most exciting-yet daunting-architectural challenge since storage started migrating from mainframes to open systems. As such, we decided to dedicate our entire features section to the subject this month.
We kick it off with a Special Report on Fibre Channel networking components, including host bus adapters, bridges and routers, hubs, switches, and directors. Written by a trio of storage analysts, this introduction provides the basics on storage network components, as well as technical details that will help you start building a SAN infrastructure. The report also lists all the vendors in each product category.
If you're beyond the early evaluation stage and your SAN is starting to grow beyond your original expectations, be sure to read Derek Granath's "SAN infrastructure: A strategic business decision," which addresses some of the challenges posed by large, complex SAN fabrics.
Debates are raging about what underlying infrastructure will best meet IT's SAN requirements, but for now Fibre Channel is still the only game in town. And the Fibre Channel vendor community is moving steadily from first-generation 1Gbps products to 2Gbps speeds. End-user adoption is expected around the middle of next year, but now is the time to plan for the migration. Mike Smith explains the second-generation technology, as well as migration issues, in "Making the move to 2Gbps Fibre Channel."
Many early adopters of SANs bought pre-tested, pre-configured storage networks from vendors such as Compaq and EMC. However, most IT managers prefer to build networks with best-of-breed hardware and software. As such, heterogeneity is going to be a fact of life, and management of the SAN will be critical. Robert Wright examines SAN management software issues in "Managing heterogeneous SANs."
Closely allied with the management issue is the emergence of a new product category: network storage appliances, often referred to as 'SAN appliances.' Dan Petrozzo provides an overview of the benefits of these hardware-software combos in "The case for network storage appliances."
In a related article, industry analyst John Webster has written a very interesting examination of the four types, or stages, of metadata engines: "Start your metadata engines!" begins with a look at engines embedded in SAN appliances and ranges up to the (yet-to-be-delivered) fully distributed cluster file-system approach.
As you're investigating SAN appliances and management issues, you'll continually run into the term 'storage virtualization.' Considerably easier to understand than to implement, virtualization promises to provide a number of benefits that mask the complexities of SANs. Claudia Chandra uncovers those benefits and compares the three dominant approaches in "Methods for storage virtualization."
Although end users implement SANs for a number of different reasons, improved backup is often at the top of the list and "server-less backup" has been called the first "killer app" for SANs. We wrap up our focus on SANs with a detailed look at storage network backup. "Building better backup systems with SANs" is excerpted from Marc Farley's highly recommended book, Building Storage Networks (Osborne/McGraw-Hill), which is available from most of the major on-line book shops.
Despite appearances, we're not total SAN bigots. This month's Labs Review tests Hewlett-Packard's NetStorage 6000 network-attached storage (NAS) server, with some interesting performance results.
Last month, we announced a number of staff changes and additions, and to keep up with our fast-paced growth, we're adding two more members to our team this month.
Joining us as managing editor is Marcy Koff, who was most recently with our parent company's (PennWell Publishing) Cabling Installation and Maintenance magazine. Marcy will handle all copyediting and will be the critical liaison be-tween InfoStor's edito rial, art, and production departments.
Also this month, Lisa Coleman joins us as senior editor. Lisa has been with a variety of PennWell publications, most recently our sister publication, Data Storage. Together with senior editor Heidi Biggar, Lisa will cover tape technologies and management software, as well as beats such as storage service providers (SSPs) and NAS.