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Multiservice Access for SAN-to-SAN Connectivity
By Matthew Brisse and Michael Harris

SAN-to-SAN connectivity promises interoperability among geographically dispersed storage area networks. This article describes several methods for SAN-to-SAN connectivity and outlines the benefits of a multiservice access approach.

ne of the most promising areas of storage technology today is SAN-to-SAN connectivity. Extending storage area networks (SANs) beyond the local fabric will greatly improve data availability, disaster avoidance, and storage consolidation. Longhaul SAN transport—the ability to connect geographically disparate SANs and make them look like one fabric—provides a simplified management model and allows consolidation of key human resources. Long-distance SAN-to-SAN connectivity is also important for storage service providers (SSPs) because it allows economic and business needs, rather than location, to dictate the placement of consolidated storage facilities. Unfortunately, confusion exists in the marketplace regarding SAN-to-SAN connectivity. Multiple protocols (some based on open standards and some proprietary), competing technology camps, and a range of opinions on what is considered the “best” option for SAN connectivity are sending mixed signals to the IT community. This uncertainty threatens to delay deployment of this useful technology to the detriment of business operations. However, a proven technology, which has been in existence for years, is mirroring from one SAN to another. Adding a relatively new technology—snapshot and virtualization—to mirroring can create a powerful combination that many IT organizations can implement today. (See Figure 1.)


fabrics is either server or SAN appliance based. Integrated solutions based on existing local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) infrastructures, Fibre Channel over Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), and Fibre Channel-to-T1/T3 are quickly emerging. The viability of each methodology depends on organizational data availability needs and the requirements of different storage applications. The most common of these applications includes storage consolidation, disaster avoidance/recovery, backup, and virus protection. Server-based Server-based approaches employ a server with host bus adapters, network interface cards (NICs), and specialized software for routing either Fibre Channel packets or Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) blocks to a LAN for transport over an existing WAN. Serverbased solutions can be deployed immediately but often complicate long-distance SAN transport. Server-based SAN transport can be costly and difficult to manage because it typically requires a high-end server with vast amounts of memory, powerful processors, and specialized software. These powerful servers usually support mission-critical applications and cannot be dedicated only to data transportation. Appliance-based Appliance-based approaches employ a SAN appliance specifically designed and architected for the virtualization and movement of

Current approaches to SAN connectivity
Several distinct methodologies enable SAN-to-SAN connectivity. The most widely deployed method of extending SANs past local



Protocol-neutral multiservice access allows flexible connectivity options data within a SAN and Internet Protocol (IP) environment. sub-LUN partitioning.. is run over an Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet network. especially when this connection is constantly available or when large amounts of block I/O traffic are expected to flow between geographically dispersed SANs. Data must be routed through multiple switches and routers before it enters the WAN. Gigabit Ethernet and SONET (OC-12 or higher) are adequate transports for most applications. Do not confuse this method with “storage over IP” systems in which all storage traffic. including SCSI block I/O.. For these reasons. resulting in faster implementation and easier management. Fibre Channel switch .. SAN appliances combine virtualization techniques with snapshot and mirroring technologies. The obvious advantage of transporting Fibre Channel packets through existing LANs and WANs is that most of the infrastructure is already in place. during periods of heavy usage. SAN appliances include specialized hardware and software to provide logical unit number (LUN) masking and mapping techniques while combining high-end features such as LUN virtualization. which compounds latency problems and complexity.. Fibre Channel Director OC-48 T3 OC-3 WAN DR backup SAN . administrators should profile the latency requirement to ensure adequate data response. depending on the distance that the data will travel. Running block I/O traffic with other traffic can overload the primary network and. periods when network traffic is light (for example. For online transaction processing (OLTP) and data-sensitive applications. This combination enables administrators to create point-in-time clones of LUNs and then mirror the LUN to a remote site where the targeted LUN can be assigned to a server for backup or testing. Disk arrays . 2001 . The mirroring transport for appliances is typically Gigabit Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet over ATM. or staged in the event of a disaster or virus attack. after business hours). 2 PowerSolutions Issue 4.. SONET In many cases. emergency failover from a dedicated storage WAN link. prevent storage traffic from arriving in order and on time.S T O R A G E E N V I R O N M E N T PSTN Alarm/management call Remote management Servers SAN Ethernet SNMP SAN management .... Advanced appliances such as the Dell® PowerVault® 530F can perform synchronous Fibre Channel mirroring as well as synchronous and asynchronous IP-based mirroring. a dedicated connection to remote storage resources is preferred. and situations that require lowto moderate-speed bandwidths for financial considerations. the IT community is very familiar with its current infrastructure. and mirroring functions. snapshot. LUN concatenation. The major disadvantage is congestion and latency. In addition. Gigabit Ethernet Another approach is to deploy devices that leverage current Ethernetbased network infrastructures to bridge Fibre Channel SANs and existing LAN-to-WAN routers and switches. the Fibre Channel-toGigabit Ethernet approach best fits the following scenarios: organizations that have existing infrastructures. Enterprise SAN IP network ATM Router Gigabit Ethernet SSP SAN ASP SAN Figure 1.

high cost. IT managers can order incremental upgrades in connectivity with minimal changes and disruptions to the overall system. Multiservice access can support different protocols Faced with so many compelling and competing approaches. LAN. Distance. can now drive the connectivity planning.000 per month. and suppliers. Additional latency from errors or distance associated with IP networks might affect the storage applications themselves. Multiservice access frees IT professionals from being at the mercy of a particular vendor. The applications. However. A typical list price for SONET (OC-12 to OC-48) in the New York City area can be as high as $300. SONET (OC-48) is a good choice when running I/O-intensive applications over short distances. vendors. Multiservice access provides a variety of WAN. IT managers can interoperate effectively and efficiently with other facilities. proprietary systems can lock IT managers into a specific vendor’s solutions. which supports tighter cost control. Investment protection. multipoint service. Storage applications such as databases and OLTP are extremely sensitive to the effects of data latency. the average latency is 3 milliseconds to 5 milliseconds with most of the latency associated with the disk drive mechanics. Disadvantages of SAN transport via SONET include its relatively short range (restricted to metropolitan area networks). In a direct-connect (server to storage) scenario. Storage applications such as OLTP have very stringent latency requirements. proprietary protocols Transport protocols are another important element of SAN-to-SAN connectivity. By deploying a variety of open protocols. and network errors cause latency. Multiservice access offers five advantages: Maximized performance. Network errors occur with significant frequency in IP networks. ensuring investment protection. However.000. protocol for transporting Fibre Channel SANs over rather than the router or switch vendor. When applied to SAN-to-SAN connectivity. The needs of mission-critical applications can determine WAN-link deployment decisions. network congestion. (See Figure 2. many of which are not interoperable.3 committee. which may not serve all of their future needs effectively. ATM. link errors occur. or SONET networks.SONET (OC-1 and up) provides effective SAN-to-SAN connectivity because of the high throughput (up to 2. This decision is a risky career move unless purchased from a tier-one player that has tested. Proper throughput sizing is imperative when considering SAN-to-SAN connectivity. Bandwidth can be purchased based on need. and lack of availability to many enterprises. Tighter cost control. Cyclical redundancy check (CRC) does not catch these errors. Even in a perfectly engineered network. Open vs. An alternative to the multivendor solution is the multiservice access approach.100 and 1 in 32. integrators. which is currently under discussion by the Internet Engineering Task Force.) The multiservice access concept has been a fundamental element of traditional networking. These protocols include Fibre Channel (FC) over Internet Protocol (IP).com/powersolutions PowerSolutions 3 . which is under revision by the American National Standards Institute T11. WAN links are a recurring monthly expense. and metropolitan area network (MAN) interlinks that support different protocols. The amount of possible errors in a typical data network can be exponential when compared to that of a Fibre Channel network. Open standards-based systems compete with proprietary protocols. For example. Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) catches network errors that occur at a ratio between 1 packet in 1. certified. and Fibre Channel Back Bone. Typical IP network characteristics that permit 3 percent to 5 percent packet loss are potentially devastating not only to data latency. consider the Fibre Channel objective of 10-12 bit error rate.5 Gbps). For a 10 Gbps link. and promised to stand by the entire solution. packet loss. Protocols specific to a particular vendor’s product also exist. and end users are challenged by questions such as: Which type of connection should I use? Which protocol is the right one? Whose approach will dominate in the end? Many IT professionals with responsibility for multiple storage applications believe they have no choice but to deploy different vendors’ products. this metric equates to one error every 100 seconds. multiservice access provides IT managers with the right tools for meeting the constantly escalating storage demands of their enterprise environments. but also to the overall throughput of the application solution. Both proposed standards represent an attempt to develop an open www. link errors. Many vendors are backing the open protocol standards developed by the major standards bodies. As the system requirements grow. customers. Such access offers IT managers the opportunity to make decisions based on need and budget. This approach works well if a customer is solving a specific need and is an early adopter of technology. the storage application must be mission-critical to justify the expense of dedicated solutions. Proprietary systems offer little protection against technology obsolescence. and more reliable error handling. Multiservice access also can maximize application performance. decisions can be based Network latency considerations The issue of network latency is fundamental to the intrinsic nature of data networks.

and the Entrada™ Networks Silverline™-222 SAN-over-IP transport switch. relying on one approach for SAN-to-SAN connectivity means that some locations cannot use an application until that service is available. and/or IP Disaster recovery Long haul Site B SAN SAN SoIP™ Storage Dell Computer Corporation: www. Advancements in Fibre Channel.ansi. SONET (OC-48) is not universally available. WAN infrastructure varies widely. With products like the Silverline-222 and others on the horizon. Vendors have announced multiservice access devices: the Cisco® SN 5420 Storage Router. He holds a B. Several different schools of thought have emerged regarding the “correct” way to allow geographically dispersed SANs to interoperate. some bandwidth-intensive applications will either run at an unacceptable slower speed or. interoperability is an important part of IT planning and should be considered when deploying SAN-to-SAN applications. and investor Nishan Systems: www. is senior vice president of Entrada Networks. and one that customers should consider. Dark Fiber As SAN-to-SAN connectivity becomes increasingly important. the Nishan Systems™ IPS 3000 FOR MORE I NFORMATION Cisco Systems: www. fail because of unexpected latencies that were not anticipated by the application 4 PowerSolutions Issue 4. for example. the interoperability of equipment from multiple vendors and different connectivity options is vital.S. can connect SAN islands across a variety of network topologies. Matthew Brisse (Matthew_Brisse@Dell. The Silverline-222. Statistics and Analytical Research from the University of Wisconsin. Efficient service. He has worked in the storage industry for more than 19 years in engineering development and product management roles. SAN Site C Figure is the SAN product manager for PowerVault Michael Harris (MAHarris@entradanet. in Sociology. Enhanced interoperability. in Communications from the University of Tennessee. Remote backup Multiservice access offers viable solution The SAN-to-SAN connectivity landscape is new and fragmented. If an organization implements a slower interconnect such as a T1. for example. Michael holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and a B. Connection options range from T3 for ATM-based WANs.S. OC-3 and higher feeds for WAN/MAN networks. and other key storage networking technologies are making the multiservice access approach a American National Standards Institute: www. 2001 . ATM.nishansystems. where he is responsible for marketing. business development. Multiservice SAN transport supports many networking applications on economics rather than a particular vendor’s product schedule. Various groups within the enterprise can use a solution best suited to their scenario. and Gigabit Ethernet for transporting SANs over existing high-speed IP networks. the outlook is promising for IT professionals faced with the daunting task of connecting SAN islands in today’s environments.S T O R A G E E N V I R O N M E N T Site A Storage disk mirroring Local Leased line. Even within a single company. in a time when mergers and acquisitions are commonplace. even Internet Engineering Task Force: www.ietf. Dell’s SAN virtualization appliance. Gigabit Ethernet. Accordingly. WAN Entrada Networks: www.