Summary: Off Topic: Who Should Own/Have Responsibility for SAN's?

From: Caparrosso, Nelson T. <>
Date: Wed Jun 13 2001 - 15:43:00 EDT
First, my apologies once more  to the list owners/members for this off-topic
post and thanks for letting this through.

Thanks to all who responded to this post... plenty of replies.  
Obviously, the overwhelming majority is of the opinion that it is a system
admin (or storage admin) responsibility and should never be a network
admin/engineer realm except for infrastructural support (cabling, laddering,
repeating etc...). Management of the hubs, switches, storage software,
fabric OS, etc. should be a Sysadmin/Storage Admin task. There were a few
who mentioned that it should be part of network group's responsibility in
light of the fact that with the advent of SCSI over IP (iSCSI),  SAN's will
be interoperating, co-operating and taking to regular  IP networks with
which network admins will have an edge.

The reason for the post is that I have seen (and heard) in some sites of
ongoing impasse between the two groups (sysadmins and network people).
Mostly, the network people like to think that everything that has the word
"network" on them should be owned by them or should have their involvement.
Since SAN's and the concept of storage networking are relatively new, higher
management and policy makers (who mostly do not know anything anyway..) are
often swayed by the network people to give them sole responsibility for
SAN's - because of this premise.  In some sites, the network group have now
even extended their scope beyond the network drop to the actual OS network
configurations. Would you believe that there now some sites where in UNIX/NT
administrators are no longer alllowed to configure the networking part of
the servers in the guise that anything 'network' is a network task? Before,
it used to be that network people just gives the sysad the network drop, the
IP address to use, gateways, DNS and  routing info for the sysadmin to
configure...... Which leaves me with a parting question for those hardcore
sysads out there ---  should network people's involvement in servers stop at
the network drop or should they be allowed to configure the OS's networking

Below are some of the responses I received.

Nelson Caparroso
IT Consultant

All views and opinions are mine alone and do not represent, involve or
reflect in whatever form conditions at this e-mail carrier's site.

Trevor Paquette:
You need to look at the FUNCTIONALITY of the systems, not the name. SAN
provides DISK and storage capabilities to servers. This of these systems as
'specialized' servers that only provide storage. Or better yet rename then
to Triple-S (SSS,Storage Service Systems).

Additional question: are the networking folks capable of supporting disk and
storage needs AND the network at the same time? Let them try, and then watch
them fall all over themselves when things fail or you  are not getting
things done within a reasonable amount of time.

James Mello:
In several aspects, yes SANS should be under the domain of the network
folks. The reality is, the  large the SANS environment, the more like a
complex gig ethernet network it looks like. There are TONS of switches, lots
of interconnections, and also networking protocols such as spanning
tree and such. In addition, it has the simple naming service which unlike
DNS is a method of automatically setting up name service on the switches.
Lastly, the diagnosis of a SANS problem is very much like that of a network,
i.e. sniffers, protocol analyzers, etc....

Overall the best SANS work that I've seen done were done by people with an
extensive networking background. The peripheral devices such as the tape
libraries and disk should NOT be under their control how ever.

Michael DeSimone:
SAN is not IP based. Network guys should touch IP things, switches routers
etc. Sys & storage admins should own SAN and NAS in my opinion. You can let
them be involved to make them feel good but in the end it is your systems
that need the space not their routers.

Dan Anderson:
Sys-Admins, unless the network people want to claim your normal scsi
cables/arrays too.

If your shop has Storage admins I would say they would own it.  If not, you
are talking all departmental politics.

David Byers:
This is a SysAdmins/Storage-Admins at Hershey Foods (and should be)

Kelly McDonald:
In our shop the Sysadmins take care of this. We have a EMC and Brocade
swithces connected to several Unix,Linux and NT machines. Most of the work
is usually configuring the server. Configuring the switches only takes a few
minutes. And it is nothing like a Cisco switch. 

Kevin Warren:
I suppose it depends on your enviroment.  In ours, we Sys Admins have total
control of the SAN's.  We don't want the network staff touching our HBA's or
Switches because they aren't as familiar with SANS, FCAL and Fabric
methodologies as we are.

Todd Fiedler:
We do it both ways. The network people own the switches, fibre patches  and
the fibre but us system admins own the storage array and the administration
of it.

Rick Waegner:
 Here, the UNIX Team maintains all server-to-host SAN connectivity. From the
HBA to the SAN Switches to the Frame. Actually, the Network Admins don't
want to touch the SAN Fabric!

Thorfinn Rasmussen:
If your organisation has got a dedicated storage admin, I suppose this
person would be the most obvious choise, but otherwise I'd say that the
sysadmins should have responsibility for it. It is more related to disk
layout and configuration planning of the actual servers than to network

Where I am, the sysadms are responsible for the SAN.

Siddahartha Jain:
It should definitely goto Sys admins/Storage guys ..... It involves nothing
of traditional networks ... the protocols used are totally different from
those used for traditional networking. And it involves a lot sysadmn/storage
management. I hope you can wrench it from the nw guys. best of luck.

Joseph Herpers:
My vote is for SysAdmins/Storage-Admins, they have the skill set and
disposition to handle a SAN environment 

Mark Neill:
If it's truly a SAN, with no "Networking" going on, it should belong to
whoever is responsible for administration of your storage.

Stuart Whitby:
Heh.  Whichever group you're not in :)  Sans have more bugs than Borneo.
Realistically, this has to come under the umbrella of the Sysadmins, or
storage admins if you have them.

Jeff Kennedy:
Storage admins without question.  The only role the network people play is
to keep the network up so users can get to the servers.

Rob Hill:
Sysadmin/Storage admin- The networking folk I've worked with know nothing

David Evans:
This is Gordian knot type question. It depends on the company and where the
boundaries and expertise is. Mainly SANs and NASs are in the sys admin
groups but not always. And after that it becomes a religious war so I'll
step aside.

Derrisk Daugherty: 
You should have never told them you were running IP on your brocade as well!

SANs are a completely different beast than the networks they are used to
(as you know).  I don't think it falls anywhere close to their realm  other
than provisioning the ip address space for your nodes.  

It's a glorified scsi cable with redundancy and more features, why on earth
would they have control over the hd connections?

I can't even fathom why they would want control over that area, that falls
completely in the sysadmin/storage admin area.  If you have a separate
storage admin that should belong to him with the sys admin being the backup.

I suppose if you were doing some fabric over teh wan that they'd want
control, but I think it should belong to your group until it touches their
wan switch/router.  At that point they control the link and the flow, then
it comes back into your realm on the other side to your hosts/disks.  Other
than that, keep them away ;)

I'd be curious of the other responses..brief summary would be cool.  

btw, I still can't find how to adjust the mtu on a sun box yet.  I _know_
that it has to be possible but I'll have to contact the card vendor.  Oh,
hmm.  It's a sun GigE card...I dunno who they oem them from.  I'll keep
digging on that as time allows.

my four hay-pennies,  take care,

Tom Davis:
I have a strong opinion on this, having worked in an environment with lots
of storage. A SAN always belongs to those who are managing storage. It has
no place being part of a network infrastructure. IO performance problems are
notoriously difficult to diagnose and correct. SAN is part of the storage
infrastructure not part of a network!

Stephen Harris:
IMHO... Network guys are responsible for the fibre cabling.  SAs should be
responsible for the fabric switches and the storage devices.  An argument
could be made for the network guys to control the switches as well, but the
technology is still "flakey" and sometimes require switch reconfigurations
for the SAs to do their work.

Harry Ford: 
you obviously need network guys to make it work in the first place (most
systems aren't much good  without a net work anymore :)  but the day-to-day
maintenance of the SAN itself should belong to the systems group(s).  I
think this should apply to any content/system oriented solution (load
balancers, firewalls, etc).
Received on Wed Jun 13 20:43:00 2001

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