In today’s SMB market there is a major debate on when and why to use a SAN when technologies like server level clustering can be taken advantage of. Traditionally, a SAN meant specialized knowledge; intimidating many small businesses with the prospect of additional hardware to maintain. When talking with my customers, there are three main reasons to choose a SAN over server level or DAS storage: Scalability, Flexibility and Availability. Surprisingly, you can get all three at the same price as traditional DAS.
Most customers make purchases on not only the needs of the business today, but those they can foresee in the viable future and for most this means capacity. When building out storage in a traditional direct attached model, there becomes a physical limitation to how far a server can scale. Once these physical limitations are met, customers are forced to purchase and ADDITIONAL server. This can be very wasteful, as they now have to invest in processing power and additional over head. In cases where you know you will grow out of your current server, a SAN provides a much better scale out infrastructure.
Just as it is important to plan for the future you do know about, it is also important to plan for the future that you don’t. Technology and businesses are ever changing, and it is impossible to know everything that is going to be demanded of your IT department. IT directors are always challenged with meeting these new demands of the businesses with the equipment they have on hand. SANs are flexible to meet these challenges without having to rip and replace legacy equipment. Whether you’re looking to improve performance, update an aging fabric or take on new business processes a SAN can change to meet these new demands.
With the introduction of virtualization software, businesses have started to open themselves up to higher levels of risk. No longer will an outage just effect a single application, but entire businesses can be shut down by a single controller outage. Additionally, planned outages around maintenance have become more difficult as infrastructures have collapsed. The solution has been to create a highly available architecture where there are no single points of failure. While cluster can allow you to have the same availability, by utilizing a SAN you can now run your servers in an active/active architecture and use all of the equipment purchased.
When it comes to creating a datacenter for the truly SMB, it is important to understand where you are going, how flexible you need your architecture to be and what are the costs to keeping that business up.