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Maximize data center space with SANs

Maximizing your customers' data center space can save them money. Here are three SAN techniques that storage service providers can employ to consolidate space.

Maximizing existing data center space is increasingly on the minds of corporate data center managers. The cost of adding space to a data center can run anywhere from $400 to $1,200 per square foot -- an expense that most companies are anxious to avoid. Factor in the power, heating and cooling costs that new equipment on new floor space will incur, and most companies will welcome advice from service providers to efficiently maximize existing data center space.

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The technique of mixing Ethernet and Fibre Channel (FC) on storage area networks (SANs), coupled with new features on SAN storage systems, gives service providers some solid options to present to clients. And, it might give them access to funds that clients had earmarked for data center infrastructure expansion.

Here are three ways service providers can go about maximizing data center space savings for their clients:

  • Upgrade hardware: Consider the type and number of storage systems in use and evaluate potential space savings from upgraded hardware. Storage systems that are older than three years likely support disk drives with a limited storage capacity (146 GB or less) or older and slower FC or SCSI connections. Those systems may even still use DAS (direct attached storage). New SAN storage systems that support a mix of high-performance (FC or SAS) and high-capacity disk drives (SATA) can save space in the data center. Mixed FC and SATA, or SAS and SATA, SAN storage systems provide clients with flexibility to appropriately configure and scale storage systems to meet specific application performance and capacity requirements. For instance, service providers can assign higher-performing applications such as databases, email and file services to the system's FC or SAS disk while placing archival and backup data on SATA drives.

  • Incorporate SAN-attached storage: Service providers should also quantify how many of their clients' servers use internal storage or external DAS and suggest introducing SAN-attached storage as replacements for those devices. Beware that the upfront costs for SAN network connectivity and SAN-attached storage are still generally higher than when using internal or direct-attached storage. However, if a client reduces its server footprint by introducing server virtualization or blade servers, SAN-attached storage will almost always be more economical than adding data center floor space to host more servers and storage.

  • Use multiprotocol-capable systems: Finally, VARs should recommend SAN storage systems that support both Ethernet and FC network connectivity. Storage systems that support both of these protocols give clients the flexibility to use either iSCSI or FC to connect servers to back-end storage. They'll gain the ability to connect both entry-level and high-end servers using the most appropriate yet cost-effective network cabling while still gaining the benefits of consolidation and reduced storage footprints.

About the author: Jerome Wendt is the founder and lead analyst of The Datacenter Infrastructure Group, an independent analyst firm. He began his career as a systems administrator and has worked in a number of end-user roles in both public and private organizations, including senior storage administrator, systems manager and storage systems engineer.

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