What is SAN and How can it Benefit Your Company

What Is A SAN?

SAN (or Storage Area Network)  is a high-speed network with block-level access to data storage. It is the most common storage networking architecture and is used by enterprises for business-critical applications (click here for an overview of storage networking architectures). It provides high throughput and low latency. A SAN is composed of hosts, switches, storage elements, and storage devices that are connected by different technologies, topologies, and protocols. To a host, a SAN presents storage devices in a way that they appear to be locally attached by using various forms of virtualization. SANs are commonly based on Fibre Channel (FC) technology that utilizes the Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) for open systems and proprietary variants for mainframes. In addition, the use of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) makes it possible to move FC traffic onto a single cable across existing high-speed Ethernet infrastructures, converged storage, and IP protocols.

What Are SANs Used For?

There are several main functions a SAN is used for. Listed below are a few of them.

      • Boost application performance utilizing things like off-load storage functions and segregate networks.
      • Increase application availability
      • Improve storage utilization
      • Increase data protection and security
      • Consolidate storage resources
      • Assist in Business Continuity Management (BCM) activities.

Types Of SANs

Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) : One of the most common types of SANs, accounting for 70% to 80% of the total number. It is designed to carry serial SCSI-3 data over optical fiber networks. For this variant, the throughput ranges from 100MB/s to 1.6 GB/s with a distance stretching from 500 meters (1640.42 ft) to 10 kilometers (6.21 miles). The Internet Small Computer System Interface protocol (iSCSI) is utilized in approximately 10% to 15% of all SANs.  It transports block-level between the iSCSI initiator on a server and an iSCSI target on the storage device. iSCSI encapsulates SCSI commands inside an Ethernet frame and then uses an IP Ethernet network for transport.

Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE):  FCoE is used in less than 5% of all SANs. It is similar to iSCSI since it encapsulates an FC frame inside an Ethernet datagram. Then, like iSCSI, it uses an IP Ethernet network for transport.

Non-Volatile Memory Express over Fibre Channel (FC-NVMe):  NVMe is a host controller interface designed to increase the transfer of data. It is an interface protocol for accessing flash storage via a PCI Express (PCIe) bus. NVMe supports thousands of parallel queues. Each of these queues supports thousands of concurrent commands.

Benefits Of Choosing A SAN

Improved Disk Utilization

Perhaps the greatest advantage of a SAN is its improved disk utilization. Direct attached storage (DAS) utilizes around 30% of the disk while SAN improves on that with around 80%. Greater utilization decreases the number of disks and drives needed, reducing the entire cost associated with storage devices and systems.

Less Backup Time

SANs are the best solution whenever a company is faced with extensive backup time within an enterprise or data storage environment. SANs have a unique ability to duplicate data almost instantly, making them ideal for data backup.

Centralized Backup

Block level, incremental backups, and streamlined IT system administrator responsibilities are a few special features provided by SAN to improve the backup process.

Disaster Recovery

SAN provides the capability to connect distant locations to secondary storage arrays. This helps protect data if a localized disaster destroys local data storage devices. When data is duplicated with SAN, it enables faster recovery for an organization; the data is preserved offsite and just needs to be transferred back over to the main location.


Similar to the above-mentioned disaster recovery advantage, SAN also protects data through local redundancy. A redundant array of disks is used by SAN and is viewed as a local volume from the servers that are attached to it. This allows for high availability with fast disk input/output performance when compared to a Network Area Storage (NAS). SAN’s are among the common virtualization clusters giving out centralized access to databases that are heavily input/output intensive.

High-Speed Disk Technologies

SAN provides data retrieval at speeds surpassing 5 Gbps.


SAN is an excellent choice for many IT departments spanning many industries. The benefits of SAN systems are only offset by the price of the enterprise hardware required to build them. thomastech provides that enterprise hardware to meet your IT environment’s needs at an attractive price, slashing your costs. Beyond providing IT systems and hardware, thomastech further empowers IT departments to keep data moving by offering support and maintenance services. To learn more about the advantages of partnering with thomastech, click the free consultation button at the top or call us at (330) 225-311. Around the globe, other IT departments are using thomastech’s services and are experiencing simpler contracts, faster resolutions, reduced costs, and more uptime. Start today.

Overview of Enterprise Storage Configurations

Enterprise Storage Overview

Data within the organization is compiled into an enterprise storage system, a centralized repository for information. Enterprise storage provides common data management, data protection, and data sharing capabilities within an organization. The enterprise storage systems should be scalable without needing extensive cabling or the creation of subsystems. When choosing their enterprise storage system configuration, IT departments are especially interested in systems which boast unlimited connectivity and support for multiple platforms. 

Within the category of enterprise storage, there are a few common configurations to choose ranging from storage area network to cloud storage.


Enterprise Storage Overview


Storage area network (SAN):

It is a high-performance dedicated network or subnetwork which is separate from the common user network. Within this network various pools of disk and solid-state storage are joined. Multiple servers access the data as if each server was directly connected to the storage. The advantages for a storage area network include high availability, disaster recovery, data sharing, powerful backup and restoration functions, plus remote support and centralized administration capabilities. One of the biggest drawbacks to the SAN configuration is the cost. One of the bigger differences between SAN and a NAS is that SAN can use both Ethernet and Fibre Channel while NAS is Ethernet based only. As a result, SAN is the better solution for many larger IT infrastructures. If an IT department needs a faster return on investment (ROI) than SAN may not be the best option.


Enterprise Storage Overview


Network-attached storage (NAS):

NAS is a good solution for mid to small companies and allows multiple users to access data from a central pool of disk storage. When accessing the shared storage of NAS, it will appear as a node with its own Internet Protocol (IP) address on the local area network (LAN). A few benefits of NAS include, physical security, simplified architecture, a wider availability of information, higher scalability and lower downtime than DAS, and perhaps one of the most appealing benefit is its affordable price.  Many IT personnel will want to consider their bandwidth before using a NAS configuration. NAS hardware is bandwidth intensive and depends on the amount of bandwidth available at the location. Due to the wider availability of information to system users, IT managers will have additional security concerns than with other network storage configurations.


Enterprise Storage Overview


Direct attached storage (DAS):

DAS is composed of hard disk or solid-state drives which are connected inside or outside the storage enclosure to one computer or server. A DAS cannot be accessed by any other computers or servers that are not directly connected to the storage array. One distinction of DAS versus SAN and NAS is that it is not networked with Ethernet or FC switches which allows DAS better performance for the one device connected. Data in a DAS is contained within the system and cannot be shared between servers which provides greater data security. The scalability of DAS is finite compared to SAN and NAS devices. Whenever additional storage units are added, the system must be shut down reducing uptime. In a business environment that requires strict uptime or escalating data storage, direct attached storage architecture is not the preferred choice.


Enterprise Storage Overview


Cloud Storage:

Cloud storage offers ease of scalability, low costs, disaster recovery backup options, and storage immortality. IT departments will want to consider a few things before using a cloud storage service. The first consideration is bandwidth because of bandwidth bottlenecks. The bandwidth caps can either severely hinder or stop operations. Bandwidth is costly which hinders many larger operations from finding cloud storage a viable option compared to on premise storage. Another consideration is security because storage is handled and controlled by a third-party. If you represent a small company, cloud storage might be a good temporary option.

Getting it right:

Your data is important, thus your decision for which data storage configurations to use is also important. As many industries, departments, and companies are fueled with data, data must be protected and effectively stored so that it can be retrieved later. Is the choice difficult? Yes, it is. Are you busy? Yes, at least we assume you are. Do you want help? We will need to let you answer that yourself, but what we can say is that we are here to help. At thomastech we empower IT professionals by providing them both the enterprise hardware and support needed to keep data moving within their organizations. You can schedule a free consultation with a thomastech partner today to start planning your storage solutions.