Fibre Channel SANs help IT staff solve one of their greatest challenges today, managing exponentially growing terabytes of data. As new or upgraded applications store new data in new ways, the control of and access to this information is crucial. Corporate information is the one irreplaceable feature of a company. Applications, computers, networks, and individuals can be replaced, but if a company’s knowledge base is taken away, the company will probably not survive. Thriving in the information age requires adept handling of the exponential growth of a corporation’s most vital asset information.

While this publication has proposed firmware as the code integrated with individual devices, software is written for the Fibre Channel SAN. Fibre Channel software is external to devices and has a variety of uses, including management of the entire SAN, backup, and applications that span several devices. Some Fibre Channel companies are investing as much as 75% of their research and development money in software development. Software will increase the level of automation and control of the hardware in the future. As hardware becomes commoditized, software will become the differentiator of products and companies.

Fibre Channel SANs encompass a systematic approach to developing storage networks. From the specifications of connectors at the physical level to querying the fabric for the IP address of a storage device, Fibre Channel has a standardized process. NCITS ANSI continues to develop new standards that will increase the functionality and performance of Fibre Channel SANs. The Fibre Channel industry has the user in mind and has developed programs to qualify interoperability between equipment and solutions.

Three key IT problems have driven the phenomenal growth of Fibre Channel installations:

Business Continuity When Disaster Strikes
Businesses cannot exist without the ability to store and retrieve data. Fibre Channel high-performance networks enable businesses to prepare and execute an effective recovery, surviving disasters. A Forbes survey shows that companies that are down for two weeks or more are out of business in two years. Fibre Channel was ultimately field-tested during the 9/11/01 disaster and subsequent anthrax scares. Dozens of businesses, directly and indirectly affected, were able to continue their business as a direct result of their high-RAS Fibre Channel SAN installations.

Efficient Use of IT Ressources
IT systems are a heterogeneous mix of storage, servers, and workstations. Fibre Channel high-performance networks optimize utilization, effectively linking these resources into highly available, scalable compute and storage clusters. IT departments are faced with the increasing challenge of employing sufficient human resource, in-house and/or outsourced, for every terabyte added to the companies database. My companies have found that locating and securing adequately trained IT personnel has become their number-one issue. Fibre Channel SANs allivieate this problem by centralizing and managing the storage with far less human intervention. Configuring Fibre Channel storage into a SAN topology allows SAN software to manage the storage sytem automatically and unassisted. Without human intervention, all storage and servers can be interconnected in any fashion from a simple, user-friendly GUI console, backed-up and/or mirrored (locally and/or remotely) without using the LAN (LAN-Free) or server CPU (serverless). The end result is far more terabytes of data managed with far less human resource.

Multiplatform Storage
Fibre Channel high-performance networks optimize integration and utilization of IT systems, a heterogeneous mix of storage, servers, and workstations. When Fibre Channel is configured in a SAN topology, storage can be abstracted from the particular OS and hardware platforms, thereby allowing any server node to access and modify any storage node within the virtualized network, per a rich set of policies set by the system and storage administrators.