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What is Storage Areas Network: A Comprehensive Guide

Data has become a vital component of organizations in the ever changing technological world. In order to effectively handle large numbers, complex data storage systems have been developed in response to the exponential rise of data. The Storage Area Network (SAN) is one such important actor in the field of data storage. In order to maintain smooth accessibility, scalability, and high availability, SANs are essential for handling and processing enormous data volumes. The universe of SANs is explored in this knowledge base, along with its layers and protocols.

1. Understanding Storage Area Network (SAN)

A "storage area network" (SAN is a specialized high-speed computer network that links multiple servers and storage devices to each other. SANs allow several servers, whether on-site or not, to access shared storage pools. Each server makes use of the shared storage as if it were a physical disk connected to it. A SAN relocates IT storage resources to a distinct, high-performance storage network from the user network. Block-level storage is offered by SANs, often over a Fibre Channel link. They cost more to scale because they need specialized hardware than alternatives based on software-defined storage (SDS) or the cloud.

2. How Does a Storage Area Network Work?

A storage area network, or SAN, enables servers to effectively and directly access storage devices by establishing a dedicated and distinct network just for storage. In order to minimize congestion and maintain peak performance, this network is often fast and isolated from the main local area network (LAN). The servers see the storage devices in a SAN as though they are physically connected to them and are often handled by a dedicated storage controller.

3. Layers of Storage Area Network

3.1. Host Layer

This layer encompasses multiple servers that can establish an effective connection with the SAN. These servers are responsible for dispatching and receiving data connected to SAN.

3.2. Fabric Layer

The network components that enable communication between servers and storage devices fall within the purview of the fabric layer. Routers, switches, gateways, and protocol bridges are a few examples of these gadgets.

3.3. Storage Layer

The storage layer, which is the last layer, includes the storage arrays where the real data is kept. This layering separation allows for effective data delivery and management.

4. Understanding SAN Switch

A SAN switch is a piece of hardware that joins servers and cloud storage units so that data may be transferred between the two. The fabric layer, or foundation, of a SAN is supported by SAN switches; some can be utilized alone, while others can be joined to form a larger fabric. The size of the SAN and its fabric layer will determine how many SAN switches you need. Basically, the more switches you need to link vital SAN components, the greater the fabric layer.

5. Types of SAN Protocols

5.1. Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP)

Fibre Channel is a high-speed networking technology that transmits raw block data that is lossless and in order. The Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) is used by the technology to transfer SCSI instructions and data units across several communication levels. Fibre Channel may communicate with IP and other protocols in addition to SCSI. It provides switched, loop, and point-to-point interfaces and can send data at up to 128 Gbps. To support SANs and fix issues with SCSI and High-Performance Parallel Interface (HIPPI), Fibre Channel was developed. It is highly suited for shared network storage because it provides a dependable and scalable protocol and interface with high throughput and low latency. Fibre Channel can accommodate devices that are up to 10 km away when utilized with optical fiber. FC networks, however, can be complicated and call for specific hardware like switches, adapters, and ports.

5.2. Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI)

With the help of this protocol, block-level access to storage devices is made possible via the transport layer protocol ISCSI across a TCP/IP network. The protocol explains how to send SCSI packets over LANs, WANs, and the internet and runs on top of TCP. IT may put up a SAN or other shared storage network using ISCSI. Because iSCSI employs common Ethernet technology, it is less expensive and simpler to implement than Fibre Channel (FC), which is why organizations frequently use it. Using multipathing, jumbo framing, data center bridging (DCB), and other technologies, ISCSI can offer fast speeds across long distances.

5.3. Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)

Direct Fibre Channel communication over Ethernet is made possible via the FCoE protocol. The protocol uses a lossless Ethernet fabric and its own frame format to wrap FC frames in Ethernet frames. LAN and SAN traffic may coexist on the same physical network while being separate thanks to FCoE. Along with FCoE-capable parts, it works with common Ethernet cards, switches, and cables. The same data speeds as high-speed Ethernet may be supported by FCoE. When compared to standard Fiber Channel, FCoE allows an enterprise to employ a single wiring strategy across the data center, which helps to streamline operations and lower expenses. Additionally, FCoE may employ DCB to prevent loss during queue overflow and maintain some of the benefits of standard Fibre Channel in terms of latency and traffic control. However, Fibre Channel and other routed networks are incompatible with FCoE.

5.4. Network File System (NFS)

For accessing and distributing files among devices on the same LAN, NFS serves as both a distributed file system and a network protocol. NAS is frequently supported by the system and its protocol. Similar to how they would with DAS, users and programs may access, save, and update files on a distant machine using NFS, a low-cost network file sharing method. Requests between clients and servers are routed via the NFS protocol using the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) protocol. Participating devices do not need to be knowledgeable about the network's specifics, but they must support NFS. NFS should only be used on secure networks protected by firewalls since RPCs might be unsafe. Although Windows may support it, Linux environments are where the protocol is most commonly used.


This article offers a succinct introduction to Storage Area Networks (SANs), emphasizing its significance for large-scale data management. SANs are specialized networks that link storage devices and servers to provide effective data access. The host, fabric, and storage layers are among the important layers that are covered in the guide, along with the function of SAN switches. Notable SAN systems including Network File System (NFS), iSCSI, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), and Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) are also introduced. Organizations looking for scalable, cost-effective data storage solutions must understand SANs since the choice of protocol affects data management's high availability, scalability, and accessibility.

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