FC SAN sets servers free

Data storage requirements are ballooning. Data centres have to grapple with the cost of storing more digital data files in a time of fiscal prudence.

Automating business operations creates extensive requirements for online data storage. Accessing data anytime and anywhere means creating the

flexibly of tapping into storage capacity on-demand and in an automated fashion. This philosophy poses considerable challenges to the performance capacities of our traditional data storage systems, architectures and management. We also encounter compliance initiatives such as PIPEDA and Sarbanes-Oxley mandating rigorous requirements on data retention for specific time periods. These laws affect every bit and byte of corporate business information.

In such a climate, the storage area network (SAN) architecture under the umbrella of information lifecycle management (ILM) could be a harbinger of efficient and optimized computing. It can aid in shutting out the complexity of various facets of information management, that is, intrinsic in data maintenance, migration, replication and management, reclaiming storage resources and averting disasters. You can also maximize efficiency and manage your organization’s information more effectively.

Instead of sifting through a technology soup of storage interconnects, we will now look intently at the fibre channel (FC) SAN, a high-speed transport system that will move your SCSI traffic from servers to disk arrays and tape drives. They are reliable, extensible and prevent situations where storage resources are underutilized. They improve data centre efficiency and are easy to set up with very little hand-holding. FC SAN switches are one building block of SANs and act as an intermediary between servers.

Deploying a FC SAN can significantly alleviate some of the difficulties associated with disk mirroring, backup and restore. With FC SAN architecture, all storage devices are available to all servers. Data does not directly reside on the servers and the server horsepower is instead used for crunching more important business applications.

One such FC SAN switch, Brocade’s SilkWorm 3900, will give you 32 FC ports in a small 1.5U rack-based footprint. Its ports can auto-sense 1 Gbps and 2 Gbps speeds and provide four 2.125 Gbps per trunk and ISL trunk aggregates of 8.5 Gbps.

The 3900 promises a non-blocking core and support for unicast, multicast and broadcast data traffic types. The 3900 itself can be accessed via 10/100 Ethernet (RJ-45), serial port and managed using Telnet, SNMP, Web tools or Fabric Manager.

SilkWorm 3900 provides high availability through automatic data path rerouting, hot-plug components, redundant fans, online diagnostics, non-disruptive firmware upgrades and fault isolation tools.

The mileage you get from FC SAN will depend on the interoperability of the building blocks. Testing and a compatibility matrix should be the integral part of your FC SAN deployment checklist.

Operational Testing

Brocade’s switch is reliable, stable, effective and versatile. We found Brocade’s Fabric Watch software useful for monitoring fabric events such as security-related violations.

Fabric Watch software monitors the performance and status of switches and alerts you when problems arise, helping to avert potential disasters. SilkWorm focuses on availability and has, for example, two redundant power supplies and three redundant fan assemblies.


As you strategize to cope with runaway data growth, maximize your return on your storage investments — include Brocade’s SilkWorm 3900 Fiber channel switch in your game plan.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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