The Case for Storage Area Networks (SAN)

The Case for Storage Area Networks (SAN)

As IBM i users, we’re not exactly used to making fundamental changes to our operating environments. It’s not that we’re averse to innovation—quite the opposite, in fact! But with the core functionality of the platform remaining robust and reliable for over 30 years, there has been little need or incentive to move away from our tried and true management methods.

That said, here’s one technology that may be worth investigating: establishing and integrating a storage area network or SAN.

What Is SAN Storage and How Does It Work?

A storage area network or SAN is not new technology by any means. But the technology has matured over the years and has now been adopted by many Power Systems data centers. The physical technology is external to the Power server, providing direct connect or virtualized storage environments for a single or more likely a multiple partition environment. SAN can support both spinning and solid-state disk drive units.

Adding IBM SAN to a Power server brings more than just a bunch of spinning or solid-state storage to the environment. The driver for a move to SAN is the flexibility it brings in terms of virtualization, FlashCopy, hardware replication, and dynamic storage allocation. This is revolutionary technology that supports those environments where uptime, elastic computing, or high availability are top priorities.

SAN for Virtualization

IBM i has been dutifully powering data center operations for decades, providing a trusted source of strength as IBM continuously reinvented the servers it was running on. In this time, and particularly within the last few years, the demands placed on these platforms have exponentially grown.

With the effects of big data trickling down into the IT department of companies of all sizes, efficiency has taken on added importance. Most notably, storage virtualization techniques have emerged to help drive unprecedented utilization rates and promote simplified, centralized management in the face of growing workloads.

By establishing a storage area network that virtualizes all server images onto a solitary device, administrators can consolidate their total hardware footprint and make more efficient use of their resources.

SAN for Dynamic Resource Allocation   

The benefits of this model extend far beyond cost control and ease of operation, however. By tapping into PowerVM capabilities, IBM i users can now dynamically allocate their resources by manipulating live partitions. In increasingly crowded and complex environments, this flexible orchestration can be incredibly valuable.

Take, for instance, the example of planned downtime. To limit the operational impact of necessary improvements and upgrades, administrators can gather up the mission-critical applications running on the affected server and redistribute them across separate virtual machines connected to the same storage area network.

As a result, IT teams can take their time and focus on maintenance tasks without fear of users complaining about performance degradation. Better still, they may no longer have to wait around for nights and weekends to perform their handiwork!

The benefits of SAN should be lower cost of ownership of disk and greater flexibility for maintenance and things like backups. Administrators can replicate parts of the SAN without causing downtime for the end users.

So, although we IBM i loyalists may feel pretty confident in the procedures we’ve been holding onto over the years, isn’t it worth considering a subtle change that could keep end users happy and our IT teams looking smart?
 

Recovery Without Disaster

Downtime comes in many forms and it doesn’t take a full-on disaster to destroy your data. This guide shows you what you need in order to build a strong recovery strategy that your business can really rely on.