A Brief SAN Hardware Primer in VS .NET

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A Brief SAN Hardware Primer
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Like so many new technologies, SANs come with their own terminology and hardware menagerie. Although we cannot teach you all there is to know about SANs in this brief section, we will end our discussion of SANs with a quick look at the important hardware components that make up SANs and that you ll need to be familiar with if you are thinking about implementing one. Three types of devices connect to a SAN: initiators, targets, and interconnects. Initiators put requests onto the SAN. Those requests travel through interconnecting devices until they arrive at a target. Targets service the request and send the response across the same interconnecting devices in the opposite direction, until they arrive back at the initiator. Host bus adapter. The host bus adapter (or HBA) is an adapter board that sits in a host computer and initiates all communication between the host and the SAN. If a device requests information from storage on a SAN, then that device requires an HBA. The device could even be a computer system, or an intelligent tape drive that does its backups directly from the SAN-based storage, or a data mover. Switches. The backbone of the SAN architecture, they provide a highspeed interconnect between different devices on the SAN, and they route blocks of data from one device to another. Fabric. The virtual infrastructure that is formed by all of the interconnected switches on a SAN. Router. A router connects two different protocols, such as Fibre Channel to Ethernet, in a many-to-one or many-to-many configuration. Bridge. A bridge is a router that only supports one-to-one connections. In the SAN world, the terms router and bridge are often used interchangeably.
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Hub. A hub is simply a box with a number of ports that devices can be connected to. Hubs share their bandwidth between all connected devices, and do not introduce any intelligence or management onto the SAN. To learn more about SANs, please visit the Storage Networking Industry Association s web site (www.snia.org). SNIA is the standards organization that actively promotes storage networking, and its membership includes nearly all of the vendors involved in the SAN space.
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Network-Attached Storage (NAS)
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In the earliest days of computing, IT architectures consisted of a central computer, called a mainframe, which was connected to large (for the time) monolithic storage devices. Users accessed mainframes via dumb terminals, which relied on the mainframe for all intelligence. When client/server architecture replaced mainframes, the intelligence that had been concentrated on the mainframe moved out to the edges of the network, as the dumb terminals were replaced by desktop workstations and, eventually, PCs. Although users workstations needed local storage for system maintenance and for a small set of operating system files that were local to each workstation, it was neither practical nor efficient for all of the storage to be replicated on each workstation. A method was needed to share files from the central server out to the workstation clients. It was around this time that Sun developed its Network File System protocol (NFS, which we will discuss in more detail in 14, Data and Web Services ) and published the protocol specifications, so it quickly caught on and became the de facto standard for file sharing in the Unix environment. It has remained so ever since. NFS allowed users on distributed client workstations to access and share the files that were on the server as if they were local to their workstation, and started the client/server revolution in networked computers. Microsoft followed NFS a few years later with their Common Internet File System (CIFS), which has some architectural differences. Fundamentally, though, both protocols enable the easy sharing of files across a LAN. NFS and CIFS are the two leading examples of Network-Attached Storage (NAS). Apple s AppleTalk is another example, but it generally runs only between Apple computers. NAS is a method of sharing filesystems from one server to one or more clients. The protocol handles the differences in architecture, so with NAS, it is possible, and in fact common, for a server running one operating system to share a filesystem with clients that run different operating systems. Since the filesystem is being shared, the client systems need not be concerned with the underlying physical disk hardware or layout.
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