Because they worry about added costs and complexity, many SMBs continue to use direct-attached storage (DAS) configurations rather than the storage area networks (SANs) that are fast becoming the norm among larger enterprises.
Yet SANs offer benefits not available with DAS, such as capacity planning, more secure data storage and improved utilization of network resources. And Fibre Channel is no longer the only choice for SANs; IP and iSCSI SANs offer simpler, lower-cost paths to data replication and disaster recovery.
Interest in iSCSI virtualization is growing, with both VMWare and XenSource offering support for iSCSI. And Microsoft has been a major backer of SANs, including iSCSI initiator software in its Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 and forming a group called the Simple SAN Initiative, a vendor-neutral organization devoted to making iSCSI SANs easier to implement.
This InfoStor article offers two case studies of small firms using SANs, as well as some common-sense advice on evaluating SAN solutions. Several experts emphasize the importance of looking beyond upfront cost to consider management, scalability and virtualization capabilities.