Thanks to high prices and complex installation and management, the SAN (storage area network) has always been firmly fixed in the domain of the enterprise network. SMBs (small to medium businesses) looking for a network storage solution have traditionally opted for DAS (direct attached storage) or NAS (network attached storage) as these offer very simple setup procedures and are far more cost-effective. Storage expert QLogic is attempting to redress the balance by targeting smaller businesses with the SAN Connectivity Kit 2000 which aims to provide everything you need to get a basic fibre channel SAN up and running and all at an affordable price. Another handy feature is that the components all support the latest 2Gbps fibre channel specification which is backward compatible with 1Gbps products so it can fit in easily with older legacy SAN devices. The kit targets a wide range of workgroup applications comprising servers, disk arrays and tape libraries and is built around QLogic’s SanBox2-8 eight-port fibre channel switch. This compact unit features SFP (small form factor pluggable) slots and QLogic includes all eight 850nm short-wave plug-in modules. Four QLogic SANblade 64-bit fibre channel host bus adapter (HBA) cards are also provided along with four 10-metre lengths of fibre optic cabling. Management facilities are plentiful as the cards have their own SANBlade Manager configuration utility that snaps neatly into QLogic’s SANbox Manager which is provided for switch and fabric management. Getting up and running
Installation is a simple process as the interfaces on the switch are self configuring so they can automatically detect the operating speed of connected devices and identify the type of connection. The SanBox2-8 supports short-wave and long-wave optical transceivers and either module can be used in any of the fibre ports. The kit also delivers high levels of availability as a failover feature can be activated if a device has two SANBlade adapters installed allowing all data to be rerouted if one channel fails. General installation might be straightforward but you’re on your own when it comes to SAN basics and how best to implement your fibre channel network. However, you can check on QLogic’s web site for a list of third party devices that the Connectivity Kit supports. Initial switch configuration starts at the CLI (command line interface) via Telnet or a local serial connection and a HyperTerminal session. The switch doesn’t support access from a standard web browser but once you have assigned the unit an IP address, you can move over to the SANbox Manager utility for remote access. This provides a well designed interface from where you can easily access and remotely configure all SANBlade adapter cards and switches, create zones for improved security and view fabric statistics in graphical format. A topology display shows all switches in the selected fabric along with the physical links between them and their operational status. Selecting a device takes you to a faceplate display which provides hotspots for easy access to individual ports. You can view port modes, negotiated speeds and the type of installed transceiver and SANbox Manager2 uses colour codes throughout so you can see operational status of any SAN component at a glance. Other alerting features are minimal as there are no options for sending warning messages or e-mails if any faults are detected. Wait for iSCSI
When you consider how much cash enterprises are prepared to throw at their storage problems the Connectivity Kit 2000 looks very good value and it also represents a comparatively cost-effective entry point into the world of SANs. However, smaller businesses should look at the alternatives first before taking the plunge. The emerging iSCSI (Internet SCSI) standard may well be worth waiting for as it allows SANs to be implemented over standard Ethernet networks without the need for costly fibre channel equipment and it can use existing Ethernet switches and infrastructure. True, it has yet to be ratified and will almost certainly suffer from the same early interoperability issues as SANs but it can offer similar speeds over Gigabit and even 10-Gigabit Ethernet and you won’t need to train support staff in a new technology. Overall, iSCSI certainly looks a good alternative but if you want a low cost, high-speed SAN and you want it now then look no further than QLogic.