Consider converging SAN and LAN to save money, boost productivity

Today’s workers want faster computing speeds and more storage,management wants it all under budget, and IT professionals arescrambling to save money and improve productivity.

The tools of choice to achieve these goals are typically virtualization, cloud computing and data center consolidation, but ITmay be overlooking a simple but effective fix: storage area network (SAN) andlocal area network (LAN) convergence.

If you recently upgraded your SAN or LAN switch, you probably have thecapability to converge SAN and LAN. In fact, some IT shops may not beaware that their new hardware has the convergencefeature built in.

Traditionally, servers are positioned with a SAN switch on one side anda LAN switch on the other. The converged setup combines the switchesinto one unit and enables you to remove one of the switches (most oftenthe SAN switch).

SAN/LAN convergence could be right for your data center, but how do yousell the idea to management? The benefits are clear: Convergencereduces and simplifies gear while providing faster speeds in the datacenter.

Quick fix with great benefits
Reducing your switch count has an immediatebenefit: reduced cost. It costs approximately $3,000 to maintain oneswitch for a year, and convergence can eliminate half that expenditure.Organizations can also save on power, cooling and management costs withSAN/LAN convergence.

An often overlooked benefit: Convergence reduces the number of cablesgoing in and out of the server, which is a real boon. Servers can haveeight, 10, 12 or even more cables coming out of them due to variousspeed links, virtual LANs, redundancy and SAN links. With a convergedsetup organizations can support the same amount of traffic but withjust two cables. Simplifying cables makes working with data center gearmuch easier.

In addition, convergence enables organizations to upgrade from 1gigabit cables to 10 gigabit cables, providing increased speed.

Getting started: First steps forimplementation
You will normally look at moving to a converged setup when one of twoevents occur. The first is the shift to a virtualized environment. Virtual servers perform betterwith a high-speed link connecting them, and since most convergedswitches support 10 gigabits, SAN/LAN convergence fixes the high-speedconnection problem.

The second event is replacing a legacy SAN switch. This transition can be easy, as the converged switches support the normal SAN technologies of Fibre Channel and Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI). Running cables to different places can easilyachieve the new design.

Once you have made the decision to converge SAN and LAN switches, youneed a plan. You must know what virtualization, speed and storage requirements you havetoday, and it is also important to look a few years into the future andpredict those needs. While many of the converged switches are scalable,you can avoid a solution that does not fit that vision.

Watch out for pitfalls
When executing SAN/LAN convergence, ideally you should have an ideaabout your data center needs for the next five years because thesolution should last for five or more years. Failing to plan aheadcould mean problems down the line, such as having to rebuy gear whenthe proper gear could have been purchased the first time.

Another issue that is sometimes overlooked is a clear initialunderstanding of how your organization manages SAN and LAN. Determinethat and then look at how that will change after the convergence. Forexample, organizations will often have a SAN administrator and a LANadministrator, and with convergence they will be required to worktogether to manage the network. In addition, because SAN/LANconvergence consolidates network traffic, there will likely be lessmaintenance involved so resources can be freed up to work on otheritems.

Be prepared: Parting tips
While SAN/LAN convergence provides many benefits, keep the following inmind:

➢ Identify stakeholders: Identify all departments that will be affectedby convergence and secure their buy in. Doing so will ensure that theimplementation isn’t just a technical success, but an organizationalsuccess as well.

Virtualize: If your organizationis using server virtualization, make sure the virtualization team isinvolved with the implementation.

➢ Secure the budget: While SAN/LAN convergence is a relativelyinexpensive fix, it is important to make sure the money is there.Typically, it will cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to move to a 10port, 20 gigabit switch.

➢ Phased approach: When considering the cost and IT staff’s time neededfor SAN/LAN convergence, remember that the implementation can be donein phases.

➢ Get help: Reach out to trusted solutions providers to advise aboutSAN/LAN convergence and its implementation.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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