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A Technical White Paper from MetaStor Storage Solutions
Revision 1 0 – September 1999
1. Introduction ...................................................... 3 2. SAN Basics....................................................... 3 2.1. Definitions.................................................. 3 2.1.1. What is a SAN?.................................... 3 2.1.2. What does a SAN do? .......................... 4 2.1.3. Why do I need a SAN?......................... 4 2.2. SAN Components....................................... 5 3. Evolution of SANs............................................ 5 3.1. Building on the LAN/WAN Concept .......... 5 3.2. SAN in a Mainframe Environment.............. 5 3.3. SANs for Open Systems ............................. 6 4. SAN Applications ............................................. 6 4.1. Shared Data ................................................ 6 4.2. Shared Storage Resources ........................... 6 4.3. Remote Mirroring....................................... 7 4.4. On-line Backup........................................... 8 5. SAN Reliability ................................................ 8 5.1. Fault Tolerance........................................... 8 5.2. Trimming Away Downtime ........................ 9 6. The MetaStor Open SAN Initiative ................... 9 6.1. MetaStor OSI Evolution ............................. 9 6.2. Co-operative SANs................................... 10 7. Conclusion...................................................... 11
Copyright © 1999 LSI Logic Corporation All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A.
MetaStor® is a registered trademark of LSI Logic Corporation. All other products or company names mentioned are used for identification purposes only, and may be trademarks of their respective owners.
Revision 1 0 – September 1999
SAN is the hottest buzz word in the computer storage business today. It seems like every company with a storage product, from the smallest garage shop to the largest multi-billion dollar corporation, has a SAN strategy, along with all of the products that today’s business owners and IT managers absolutely need to run their business in a SAN environment. Every day new software applications are being written that are larger and larger, and require more and more hard drive space and memory. While the storage components have grown to meet these challenges, simply storing data on a local disk has become archaic, and computers around the world have become networked. SANs will take that networking to the next level: the Storage Area Network. Envision a world where all servers, desk top PCs, palm tops, laptops, pagers, anything that acts as a data distribution and receiving device has access to all stored data anywhere in the world. In a sense, the world becomes a mainframe, and all you do is plug your terminal in! While the prospect opens up some extraordinary security complications, no doubt these will be overcome, and a world where any user has access to any information anywhere is not all that far off. Witness the revolution we call the internet, where computers worldwide all are connected to each other. This white paper attempts to cut through the confusion by clearly defining in layman’s terms what a SAN is, what it does and why you need it. Rather than provide yet another opinion of what a SAN should be, the heart of this paper will discuss the applications of a SAN that, today, are the most important: • • • • Shared data Shared storage Remote mirroring On-line backup
As reliability is always a concern, this paper will discuss the reliability of the components of a SAN today, as well as a look at the reliability of the SAN components in the future. Finally, this paper will introduce the MetaStor Open SAN Initiative, provide insight into the direction MetaStor is taking with SAN, why we are going that way, and how we’ll benefit you by bringing you along. Enjoy the ride!
2. SAN Basics
A good place to start is an introduction to SAN. Contained in the next few paragraphs is enough information to allow anyone to speak intelligently about SANs.
2.1.1. What is a SAN?
SAN is short for Storage Area Network. It is a high-speed network of storage elements, similar in form and function to a LAN that establishes direct and indirect connections between multiple servers and multiple storage elements. The SAN is an extension of the server’s storage bus. A PC may have an internal hard drive on an IDE bus, and the IDE bus becomes the storage bus. A server may have an external RAID storage subsystem connected by a SCSI cable, and in this case the SCSI architecture becomes the storage bus. Through a collection of hubs, switches, software and some type of interconnect topology wound together into a fabric, the fabric becomes the storage bus, and can extend far away from the local server. Although SAN interfaces can be ESCON, SCSI, SSA or HIPPI, the topology of choice in the open systems storage arena is Fibre Channel. Fibre Channel (FC), unlike SCSI, offers the advantage of connectivity up to 10Km away from the source. With optical link extenders, this connectivity can be increased, theoretically to a distance without limits. Fibre Channel is the enabling technology, without which a SAN would be very bulky and difficult to implement. In fact, through bridge technology and routers, SCSI is converted to FC specifically to take advantage of the connectivity FC offers. In short, a SAN is essentially just another type of network, consisting of storage components, one or more interfaces, and interface extension technologies.
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2.1.2. What does a SAN do?
SANs create connectivity. SANs offer a method of attaching storage that improves data reliability, availability and performance. Current implementation of SANs include connecting of shared storage arrays, clustered servers in a server failover environment, connecting tape resources to network servers and clients, and creating parallel and alternate data paths for high performance or high availabilty computer environments. SAN overcomes traditional network bottlenecks by connecting in three ways: • • • Server-to-storage (direct attached storage) Server-to-server (network attached storage) Storage-to-storage (SAN Attached Storage)
Today, server-to-storage attachments represent by far the majority of connections, upwards of 90% of all storage. Connectivity has typically been via a SCSI or IDE bus, although direct-attached FC connections have become quite popular in the past couple of years, and will continue to be popular. Storage availability and performance are limited to the host server’s own capabilities. Network Attached Storage (NAS), not to be confused with a SAN, is a type of application that promotes server-to-server storage. A NAS uses the LAN interface and some communications protocol, such as Ethernet, to connect servers to servers, with one of the servers acting as a direct attach to the storage. All attached servers get their large storage requirements fulfilled by passing data to the NAS server over the LAN. A NAS can be an instrumental part of a SAN, occupying a place in the same much the same as a RAID storage subsystem, tape silo, or any other element on the SAN. A SAN can be extended, much like the merging of LAN in today’s business computing environments. The merging of two SANs creates one large SAN. The beauty of FC components in a SAN is that they offer the option to extend the storage bus to create a fabric. A fabric is a collection of storage subsystems connected to servers through FC switches, and the switches are connected to other switches containing their own storage subsystems and servers, connected to others…you get the idea. In theory, every server element in the fabric has access to every storage element in the fabric.
2.1.3. Why do I need a SAN?
A very simple answer is that you need a SAN because everyone else is going to have one. The real answer is a bit more complex. Some, if not most user applications today require transfer of data across a network. E-mail, FTP, downloads from the internet, e-business and two-way communication across the internet, all require some transfer of data. While the LAN provides a means of moving files from place to place within a small department, a SAN can offer an alternate means of file transfer, keeping the network free for other communication. Why have a file transferred to you over a LAN when you can access that same file as if it were part of your own server’s storage subsystem? In this way SANs act as a complement to LANs and WANs. But there’s more! Disk and tape operations can be centralized on the SAN, allowing backups to occur independent of the LAN. In fact, since all storage devices are on the SAN, movement of data from one storage device to another (disk to disk, disk to tape, disk to optical) occurs independently of the network. Independent of the network means no scheduled backup window, no down time, no network saturation during backup windows, all of which translates into more productive and complete data backups. Remote mirroring, available through a SAN can provide an off-site copy of business critical data, data that can be immediately accessed in the event of a catastrophic loss of the data at the original site. With the data safely protected off-site, and still accessible by users, a business that has suffered a catastrophe need not count in their recovery plans the costly and time-consuming data recovery process. Things like higher application availability, higher application performance, centralized management and consolidated storage all contribute to the whole SAN package. These are the same challenges faced by IT managers today. A SAN can offer solutions to these challenges, while having a direct impact on “the bottom line” by offering investment protection, a storage growth policy, and lower total cost of ownership. Page 4 of 11
2.2. SAN Components
For the purposes of this discussion, and pertaining to SANs in the open systems sense, we’ll limit all discussion of SAN components to those incorporating Fibre Channel topology. At the most basic level, a SAN consists of servers and storage that support FC technology, as well as some means of connecting additional servers and storage. This typically takes the form of a FC switch, but may be a hub in a smaller SAN application. Additional components are routers, multi-plexers, extenders, gateways, and directors, many of the same components you will find in a LAN or WAN. All the products to tie the servers to the storage, to other servers, and the storage to other storage. A collection of these components is thought of as a fabric, and, through gateways, fabrics can be tied to other fabrics. A world full of SANs.
3. Evolution of SANs
3.1. Building on the LAN/WAN Concept
Local Area Networks (LANs) came into being to help share data files (and printers) among groups of desktop microcomputers. Soon, it was clear that LANs would be a significant step toward distributed, clientserver systems. Large-scale client-server systems were then constructed tying sizable numbers of LANs together via Wide Area Networks (WANs). The idea was to leverage cheap microcomputers and cheap disk storage to replace expensive (but reliable) central computers. LANs and WANs have been in use for a number of years, with the idea that all servers, clients, and users in general should have access to all other users within the network, with proper security considerations of course. The SAN takes that concept one step further and puts all stored data in the middle of the network. Each server entity has access to a piece of that storage. At the simplest level, users can manipulate a file, save that file to the centralized storage, and a second user can open up that file with the new changes. A simple operation, but one that can be done totally independent of the LAN, and in fact takes place on the architecture of the SAN. Expand the thinking behind this operation to hundreds of thousands of similar transactions occurring to some very large files, all without impacting the LAN. Data warehousing is another example where SANs can relieve strain on a network. Because data warehouses often involve very large batch updates, network bandwidth is becoming a serious problem. When updates only occurred weekly or monthly, getting this done wasn't particularly a problem. But as the data warehousing cycle moved to daily, or hourly, the problem has become pressing. Increasingly, data warehousing update data flows over the same backbone LAN/WAN networks that are being used by thousands of users and hundreds of other systems. These operations can be moved to the SAN. As we mentioned above, a SAN contains many of the components typically thought of in a LAN: routers, hubs, switches, gateways. Instead of Ethernet, the connection topology is Fibre Channel. Major vendors of some of these hardware components include, but are not limited to, Vixel, Brocade, Ancor and Crossroads. Major vendors of the software enabling applications are Mercury Computer Systems SANergy product, Veritas, TranSoft and Legato. Again, these are just partial lists for the purpose of this document.
3.2. SAN in a Mainframe Environment
SANs enable storage to be externalized from the server and in doing so, allow storage to be shared among multiple 'host' servers without impacting system performance or the primary network. The benefits are well proven as this architecture emerges from mainframe DASD. It is nothing new. In fact, the DEC VMS network environment is based on SAN architectures and clustered servers. EMC already has a large installed base of SAN attached arrays. Both of these examples represent a closed SAN, or a SAN-in-a-box, as they are not open to the addition of other brands of storage. A closed SAN approach can create problems in terms of expansion, reconfiguration and redeployment of storage, while potentially opening the end user to higher priced sole source issues.
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3.3. SANs for Open Systems
It is the opinion of every major vendor of storage solutions that this important technology is moving into the mainstream in distributed networking and will be the normal, adopted way of attaching and sharing storage in just a few short years. It is also the developing goal of most of the major open systems storage vendors to create a SAN environment that allows open attachment, management and support of additional storage, regardless of the vendor. What does this mean? When you buy a new computer system, you plug it into the LAN and it works, regardless of the model, type of ethernet card, OS, etc. Standards have developed that allow users this ease of use. Without a doubt this same type of connectivity will have to become apparent in the open systems storage world. Customers will demand open SANs, and vendors who buck this trend may find themselves dealing with a smaller and smaller pool of potential clients.
4. SAN Applications
Although SANs will eventually prove capable of handling many types of applications, including some not even considered yet, the MetaStor Open SAN Initiative is positioning itself to handle among the most important benefits deliverable in the very near future.
4.1. Shared Data
A major step towards SAN will be the ability for servers of different types to access and share the same storage resource. Mercury Computer Systems has done a lot towards this end with their SANergy software product. SANergy is software that delivers the power to dynamically share files on SAN-based storage, using standard networks and file systems. Instead of relying on a LAN that trickles data at 10 megabytes per second or less, SANergy allows multiple systems to share a common pool of storage at 100 megabytes/second , using the SAN’s FC interface. SANergy enables you to share data from any system in your network at the high-speed throughput rates of any storage area network using Fibre Channel, SCSI, or SSA. Systems can access the same information at the same time, even running different operating systems, and the data arrives from 10 to 100 times faster than with traditional LAN-based file server alternatives. A true SAN based data sharing environment will allow servers, clients and storage, regardless of operating system or vendor, to access all stored data universally. SANs are an important first step toward this goal, consolidating the storage and serving to drive software vendors to meet the market’s demand for applications that are not OS dependent.
4.2. Shared Storage Resources
The problem with early SANs is that while they share the network media among several hosts and drives, they do not actually share the data on the storage. The storage array may be partitioned across several machines, and data may even be copied or replicated across multiple partitions, but access to a given file or sets of files is never shared among machines. There is a very good reason for this: off-the-shelf operating systems simply are not designed to handle the sharing of physical storage. The standard file systems within modern operating systems (Windows NT, Solaris, AIX, etc.) allow only one computer to modify the contents of a disk drive. Before there were technologies to enable storage area networks, this was a very reasonable and prudent design. But SAN technology is changing the way the world thinks about storage, and more importantly, about sharing that storage. In fact, it wasn’t long after Fibre Channel technology was invented that people began asking "What if multiple computers could directly access and share data in the same storage complex – without need for a server?" Multiple I/O-hungry computer systems could then simultaneously access shared data at the full data rates, which is orders-of-magnitude faster that server-based file sharing on even the fastest. Figure 1 demonstrates a SAN with heterogeneous data sharing
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4.3. Remote Mirroring
Remote mirroring is becoming a very popular approach to disaster recovery. Remote mirroring provides a complete and up-to-date copy of mission critical data at a site removed from the running application. Distances today range from 10 to 40 Km., but with improvements in optical link extenders and enabling software, there can be virtually no limit to the distance from the home site the mirror can be implemented. Figure 2 shows an example of remote mirroring:
There are 2 main types of transfers used in remote mirroring: Page 7 of 11
Synchronous - The local system writes the copy data to the remote site as an integral part of I/O command processing. This type of mirroring typically requires high bandwidth, and is presently limited to relatively close proximity - the sites in question cannot be more than a few tens of kilometers apart. However, the technology is widely available, and thus, if the primary site or system becomes inoperative, the secondary, remote copy can be used to keep the system running - once users are switched to the secondary site Asynchronous - local I/O writes are queued up for later transmission. This is fine for longer distance or lower bandwidth constraints. Obviously, there is a greater danger here of losing buffered and ‘in progress’ data if the primary system goes down - but this risk may well be deemed acceptable. A semi-synchronous mode may become available, combining the best attributes of both, allowing transfer of data over longer distances without the need for queuing data or the risk of losing in ‘in progress’ data.
4.4. On-line Backup
Using SAN for backup is the fastest method possible, and it has zero impact on the servers or the LAN. Because the tape system is directly attached to the same storage as the servers, it benefits from interfaces that operate at 100 megabytes per second or faster without any intrusion on the servers or additional loading on the LAN. Small department level operations that may have only a single server can benefit from the additional server space, the increased speed of operation, the reduced LAN load, and be spared from the costly task of backing data. Larger shops that have several servers also benefit from a SAN backup approach. A single backup system can archive all of the data on all of the servers, at data rates never before known to the backup industry, and with no impact on the overburdened LANs. Additionally, server-less backup frees up processing power on the server, as the processing power normally needed for a backup is now being handled by the storage subsystem. A SAN backup strategy enables users to relocate backup, restore, file migration and replication of data from the servers and local/wide-area networks and have direct data movement from disks/tapes to other disks/tapes across the SAN fiber. The benefits here include: • Backups done quietly behind the scenes • Server power is freed up for the business applications • Network capacity is released for the users • Remote disaster recovery sites kept up to date - to the minute! All this without having to change existing applications, database management systems or the way the user connects to their applications via their current local area network – we are simply moving the storage away from the servers onto its own network. And the applications will be delivering 'local' speed of access to data on the SAN where the data may in fact be many kilometers away.
5. SAN Reliability
The “holy grail” of SAN reliability is the five 9s: 99.999% uptime. This translates into about 5 minutes of planned or unplanned downtime per year. Through a combination of reliable hardware, duplicate components and feature rich software packages, 100% uptime is not an unreasonable expectation.
5.1. Fault Tolerance
Inherent within a SAN structure is RAID disk and tape technology for both improved reliability and performance. RAID storage systems incorporate local fault. Fibre channels and sophisticated switched fabric technology can be configured in dual-redundant modes, ensuring no single point-of-failure within the Storage Area Network. More importantly, Fibre Channel components can be swapped in and out without shutting the system down, allowing replacement of failures with no impact to data availability. Further, over time, SAN technology will provide the ability to replace or repair any component during normal operation, reconfigure the system, add new components and otherwise enable the vast majority of changes to be made on the fly.
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More information on fault tolerance and disaster tolerance of storage components can be found on the RAID Advisory Board’s web page, at www.raid-advisory.com.
5.2. Trimming Away Downtime
The key to reaching the goal of 99.999% uptime is going to exist in software. On-line back-up removes the downtime associated with a backup window. As businesses evolve toward world markets and 24 hour operations, these backup windows are getting smaller and smaller, and in some cases backups may not get done adequately, or even at all. Another removal of planned downtime exists in “snapshot” replication of data. In this scenario, a complete copy of portions of the storage subsystem can be written to another part of the storage, and this new copy can be used for testing of new applications. Again, there is no planned downtime to either make the copy of the data or test the new application, as all of this can be done independent of normal activity. Removal of unplanned downtime exists in the form of fault and disaster tolerance. Within the controller subsystem, global hot spares, redundant controllers and host-assisted failover software aid in drive, controller, cabling and host bus adapter failures. Remote mirroring of storage at a location far from the original storage operation removes the downtime associated with a catastrophic event, such as an extended power outage, tornado or flood. With the removal of planned and unplanned downtime and the option to upgrade components without bringing the system down, the Storage Area Network becomes an operation that is never shut down. 100% uptime.
6. The MetaStor Open SAN Initiative
MetaStor®, a division of LSI Logic, has released a SAN strategy known as the MetaStor Open SAN Initiative (MetaStor OSI). As the name suggests, the strategy is aimed at providing access to SANs from a completely open perspective. Key to this goal are: • A high-speed, reliable, scalable network of storage • Shared storage resources • Centralized storage management • Intelligent storage and data management services Why a SAN should be implemented has become apparent through the course of this document, with reasons like accessibility, manageability, flexibility and scalability. By 2002, projections indicate that SANs will make up 37% of the entire storage marketplace, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). The MetaStor Open SAN Initiative is positioned to provide the components and manageability associated with this enormous emerging market.
6.1. MetaStor OSI Evolution
As with any emerging technology, the MetaStor OSI has followed an evolution. • Pre-SAN phase (1997 – Present) – Improved inter-connectability using SAN interfaces (fibre channel) for distance and performance without improving storage management functions. The MetaStor S-Class storage systems are the result of this phase, and enhancements and improvements on these products as technology improvements are made available will continue this evolution. Private SAN phase (Present – 2002) – Single Vendor Labeled Solution. “SAN-in-a-box”, or a true SAN solution with some high level storage management functions and vendor dependent management. Configurations, upgrades and growth tightly controlled by the vendor. This represents only a single step toward open SANs, and should not be thought of as a final SAN goal. Co-operative SAN phase – Multi Vendor Solutions. True SANs with interoperability test components, proven solutions, high level storage management functions and vendor dependent management. More open-ness, flexibility and choices for end users and integrators. Open SAN Initiative – Independent suppliers with interoperable products and plug-n-play solutions. True open network model with completely integrated, standards based, seamless management.
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The open SAN model provides some clear advantages over a closed model, such as proven interoperability between SAN solutions, choices of vendors, competitive pricing, and most importantly, a customer preferred marketing environment. Storage vendors that do not follow an open systems approach to SANs risk alienating themselves from this preferred customer environment.
6.2. Co-operative SANs
There are some barriers to co-operative SANs at this point, but MetaStor is leading the charge to overcome these barriers. Interoperability of components will require inter-vendor cooperation and solution testing. The complexity of SANs will open up a new methodology in testing, documentation and change control. Service and support of a complex SAN environment can be quite complicated due to the many contributing vendors and components. Training and education on SAN environments will have to be conducted at the point of sale, given the complexity of SAN. MetaStor has incorporated solutions to these barriers into the Open SAN Initiative. By carefully choosing to partner with the leaders in the industry where additional components are required, the SAN end-user is assured of receiving the highest quality in all components, not just the MetaStor components. MetaStor is addressing the complex service arrangement with the SAN Service Network, an arrangement with its partners that allows users the luxury of a single call to solve any problem within the Storage Area Network. Implementation of this program will rely on MetaStor’s Certified Channel Partners (CCP) and Certified Integrator Partners (CIP) programs. Figure 3 demonstrates one possible example of this SAN Service Network:
Figure 3 The goal of the MetaStor Open SAN Initiative is to provide the finest quality industry-leading products incorporated in an easy-to-use and easy to support SAN solution, a painless introduction to SAN environments for all users.
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SANs, although not a brand new concept, are just beginning to come of age. Just as the growth of networked computers has developed into an essential part of computing today, SANs will also become an integral part of the business and computing community. With the projected growth of the storage industry coupled with the 37% share that will consist of SAN storage, it becomes hard to imagine anyone involved in purchasing storage not thoroughly investigating SAN solutions as part of their enterprise. The cost savings associated with higher data availability, almost zero downtime and the disaster tolerant options, more than offset the added cost of implementing a SAN into an enterprise. The MetaStor Open SAN Initiative offers an OPEN alternative to SAN solutions, one that provides the enduser with seamless and simplified access to support, as well as proven solutions and reliable products. Overall, customers benefit from more solution choices, better service and lower costs. To learn more about the MetaStor Open SAN Initiative, contact your MetaStor representative at www.metastor.com.
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