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Storage Area Network in Cloud

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A storage area network (SAN) is a dedicated storage network that provides access to consolidated, block level storage. SANs primarily are used to make storage devices accessible to servers so that the devices appear as locally attached to the operating system. A SAN typically has its own network of storage devices that are generally not accessible through the regular network by regular devices. The cost and complexity of SANs dropped in the early 2000s, allowing wider adoption across both enterprise and small to medium sized business environments. SAN now plays an important part in today's cloud hosting environments.


A SAN alone does not provide the "file" abstraction, only block-level operations. However, file systems built on top of SANs do provide this abstraction, and are known as SAN filesystems or shared disk file systems.

In a typical data center setup, we first create “islands” of SCSI disk arrays as DAS ( Direct Attached Storage ) visible as a number “virtual hard drives” or LUNs. Essentially, a SAN consolidates such storage islands together using a high-speed network. SANs help to increase storage capacity utilization, since multiple servers consolidate their private storage space onto the disk arrays.

Common uses of a SAN include provision of transactionally accessed data that require high-speed block-level access to the hard drives such as email servers, databases, and high usage file servers.

SAN Topology

SANs often use the Fibre Channel Fabric topology - an infrastructure specially designed to handle storage communications. It provides faster and more reliable access than higher-level protocols used in NAS. A fabric is similar in concept to a network segment in a local area network. A typical Fibre Channel SAN fabric is made up of a number of Fibre Channel switches.


Today, all major SAN equipment vendors also offer some form of Fibre Channel routing solution, and these bring substantial scalability benefits to the SAN architecture by allowing data to cross between different fabrics without merging them. These offerings use proprietary protocol elements, and the top-level architectures being promoted are radically different. They often enable mapping Fibre Channel traffic over IP or over SONET/SDH.

Benefits of using SAN

  1. 1. Shared storage means you don't have to physically move cables and storage devices when you want to shift storage from one server to another.

  2. 2. SAN allows servers to boot directly from the SAN itself.

  3. 3. If the server becomes faulty, SAN allows for a quick and easy replacement of this faulty server since the new server can continue to use the LUN of the faulty server. This can be done in as little as half an hour.

  4. 4. SANs are also very effective in disaster recovery processes. This is one of the major benefits of using cloud hosting model. A SAN could span a distant location containing a secondary storage array. IP WANs combined with FCIP ( Fibre Channel Over IP ) or iSCSI, we can setup long distance transport over IP networks. The traditional SCSI protocol can only transport data to short distances insufficient to setup a physical disaster recovery.

  5. 5. New features like I/O caching, snapshotting and volume cloning or BCVs ( Business Continuance Volumes ) have only added to increased features at a lesser cost.

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