SUMMARY: SAN implementations

From: Vic Engle <>
Date: Tue Sep 17 2002 - 15:04:12 EDT

Thanks for all the replies. As usual they were quite informative. 
Generally, the responses suggested buying a complete solution from  one 
vendor because of the potential for compatibility problems and support 
in a heterogeneous environment. The StorageTek/LSI D178/E4600 was 
mentioned favorably in terms of price/performance. EMC, Hitachi, Compaq 
frames and Brocade and McData switches were also mentioned favorably. 
Sun 3900/6900 SANs were not mentioned and no one mentioned using Sun T3s 
in a multi-platform SAN although John Martinez did mention that T3s may 
work with windows.

Thanks to John Martinez, Durtrand Hutin, Jim Vandevegt, Eric 
Forgette, Ted John, Bill Voight, Bart Terryn, Blair Rampling, Paul 
Norton, Robert Towster and Thomas Anders for excellent replies.

Recomendation Summary:

Check references, talk with other admins
Don't build your own SAN
Use zones in mixed Windows/Unix environments
Visit vendor's test lab
Go with the new 2GB FC components
Get the book "Building SANs with Brocade"

    * *Publisher:* Syngress Media Inc; ISBN: 192899430X; 1st edition
      (January 15, 2001)

Avoid Pathlight gateways and Syncsort backup s/w.

All the replies and the original post follow.


Vic Engle
Unix Systems Administrator
Duke Clinical Research

Comments from Durtrand Hutin

basically you can buy components separately, but you will spend much time
to set this up, it is more complicated than ethernet. beware of
imcompatibilities between switches and Hbas or FC AL disks.
You need:
Hbas to put in the servers,
fabric switches,
FC AL disk arrays
and software,
and learning how to use all that stuff.

The help of an independant integrator could be useful, Amdahl for instance,
but there are others.

Some interesting documents here:

Comments from Jim Vandevegt

I and my colleagues are also in the process of evaluating vendors for 
SAN. We unfortunately don't have any direct experience so I can't give 
any strong recommendations, but in reading your post I do have a few 
comments you might find helpful.

The vendors you list are all higher-dollar units. I don't know what your 
application is or how much storage you're installing, but you'll find 
lower prices with StorageTek (D178) and XIOTech (Magnitude). Performance 
specs on both of these units are on-par with the bigger names. XIOTech 
has a disadvantage against all others in scalability -- only 64 drives 
per frame. They have a distinct advantage, however, in ease of use as 
they virtualize all the space. With others you create volume groups out 
of disks then split them up. Increasing LUN size or volume size can get 

We are definitely going with Brocade for fabric switching. We're going 
to get a 12000 for a core switch and hang a couple 3800's in our backup 
data center. We talked with one SysAdm who uses a McData Director. He 
didn't think Brocade had a switch that operated at the level of the 
Director. When I asked if he had looked at the 12000 he said yes but his 
description sounded like the predecessor to the 12000. Everyone else 
I've talked to including vendors strongly recommends Brocade over McData.

I look forward to reading your summary!


Comments from Eric Forgette


A few comments for you...

You didn't mention the size of you SAN, or what each vendor is
proposing, so here are some general things.
1.) If you're going to be the storage admin, get educated on SANs before
you make a decision! Go to a class or two if possible, buy a general
topic book, and read up on the web... (Building SANs with Brocade Fabric
Switches by Judd and Beauchamp is a very good reference).
2.) Visit the vendor's test labs if possible. Get out there and see how
these things work.
3.) Get references and see if you can visit them. There is nothing
better than to talk to another admin about their experience with gear
you are planning to purchase.
4.) Topology - Build two completely separate and redundant SANs. This
costs more, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

OK, now some personal bias...

I have a SYMM8730 which I haven't been completely happy with. It was
purchased and installed before I was hired, so I'm pretty much stuck
with it. I have a couple of Brocade switches which EMC resells as their
own. I love them. They are easy to maintain and very reliable. I've
heard that McData are also very good. There has been a rumor that Cisco
is suppose to come out with some type of fabric switch this year. If
you've played with any Cisco gear, you know those will be good.

While I was at my last place of work, I was involved in a project to
purchase several very large San and disk frames. We looked at EMC, HP
and Hitachi. Of course HP is reselling the Hitachi, so they are the
same frame (much like Sun now). I was most impressed with the Hitachi
frame. While the frame was running under heavy IO, we physically pulled
a cache board out of the frame. The box stayed up without a problem.
EMC said they couldn't do that. In fact, the SYMM I have now crashed a
few attached boxes when we lost the first cache card. I seems that EMC
stores image information about each LUN on the first cache board, so you
never want to loose that one. I have to admit that the EMC support
group has been excellent. Although one may wonder if they've gotten
that good with practice. ;)

You mentioned building your own. While this is a perfectly viable
choice for your company now, it may not be the best thing for them if
you ever leave. The next admin might not be as knowledgeable as you. I
think that you may find that you can save some money upfront by 'rolling
your own', but may have inter operability issues later on which could
much cost more (down time, data unavailable. etc).

Best of luck,
-- Eric Forgette Unix Systems Administrator

Comments from Ted John

I saw a demo of this one and it looked great


Comments from Bill Voight


We're in the process of building a SAN here. Our environment is similar 
to yours- Solaris 2.5.1-8, NT/2000 with NetWare mixed in (it's going 
away soon). I'll list the hardware and software we've purchased with my 
comments. Keep in mind the SAN isn't production just yet. The first 
deliveries came in about 9 months ago.

1. Xiotech Magnitude storage- appears reliable (no returns of original 
equipment, integrated easily into both raw and file system storage needs 
on all platforms.

2. ADIC Scalar 1000 tape jukebox- Like the Magnitudes, no problems. 
Recognized by both OS's and backup software easily.

2. Pathlight gateways- Originally bought 6. Have returned four already. 
Seems to me a 67% turnover in the first 9 months is a little high. I 
belileve Pathlight was going under and ADIC purchased them Tehy might 
get better in the future, but given the choice, I wouldn't pick 'em.

3. Syncsort backup software- Their first foray into the UNIX world. 
Bumpy ride at best. Backups work, but the software is buggy.

Good luck,

Bill Voight
UNIX System Engineer
Nova Technology
(202) 418-0021
For Internal Use Only

Comments from John Martinez

I understand your concerns. We went through this last year.

I think the best lesson learned is: check COMPATIBILITY!!!

Not every SAN is created equal.

Every storage vendor has their set of hardware compatibility, driver 
compability, software compatibility and managability. Your best bet at 
this point is to stick to stuff that's "in the middle" and not on the 
bleeding edge. Also, try not to get too locked in to a specific vendor's 
set of hardware or software.

Make sure you spell out to the storage vendors you are talking to if 
they are compatible with your specific applications.

Also, I would recommend to ZONE, ZONE, ZONE between Windows and Solaris. 
Windows doesn't play nice. I've had the situation where we have both 
Solaris and Windows machines on the same storage array (a Compaq array) 
and the Windows box locked up the entire array and I had to reboot my 
Sun servers attached to that array to ensure that there was no I/O when 
we restarted the array. A mess.

Most modern storage vendors support both platforms. It seems to me that 
the best cross-platform and software agnostic storage vendor was 
Hitachi. They allow you to use Veritas DMP (in both the Solaris and 
Windows versions of Volume Manager) as well as their own. Compaq is a 
little cheaper and they work well in a single node environment (don't 
run VCS on a Compaq array). Sun has their own storage (T3) on the 
low-end, which is said to work with Windows, and they basically use 
unmodified Hitachi arrays on the higher end. I don't have experience 
with EMC.

Also important is your switch architecture. Some solutions vendors would 
have you believe that it doesn't matter what switches you implement. To 
a certain degree, that's true, but at this point in the technology, I 
would not intermix switch vendors on a SAN. Brocade preaches more 
smaller switches in a "core-edge" design and McData seemed to me to be 
more in the "director" class switch category. We implemented a Brocade 
fabric in the core-edge design.

I would highly recommend the book, "Building SANs with Brocade," if you 
are looking at Brocade switches. While it's vendor-specific, it does 
have pretty good information about SAN generalities.

I know my response was kind of generic, but I can give you more details 
about my specific implementation, if you'd like.

Good luck,

Comments from Bart Terryn


You forgot to mention what size of SAN storage environment you are looking
We here are currently running a midsized SAN solution from CMD connected to
SUN and W2000K, which we would like to replace.
So, we did the exercise for the second time and had a look at the following
storage boxes:

- EMC 4700
- HP VA7400
- IBM FAST 700

We were looking for connecting 6 hosts and around 1TB to start with.

We did not find anything suitable at Compaq as the MA8000 is at the end of
its life cycle (and still SCSI based). Eva is too big for us and the MSA
1000 box is too small...

To my big surprise IBM came out as the winner: most flexible box at the best
I found the IBM implementation a lot more modern then the EMC
implementation. And I certainly did not like the tiering of the software
prices at both HP and EMC. This means you have to watch out there. Asking
prices for different configurations can give surprising price

If you want to share more info, please feel free to contact me.
We are expecting to make the final choise end of this month...

Kind Regards,

Bart Terryn - Systems Manager - Grafikon
Steenbruggedijk, 1 8020 Oostkamp - Belgium
phone: +32 50 367200 fax: +32 50 367230

Comments from Blair Rampling

We're running a Storagetek (rebranded LSI Logic) SAN with Brocade 
switches, JNI HBAs in the Sun systems and Qlogic HBAs in the Compaq 
systems. We have done a full POC including booting both Windows and 
Solaris from the SAN itself and everything works great. The only 
downside I've seen so far is the cost.

- --
Blair Rampling

Comments from Paul Norton

We're using a HP (Compaq) StorageWorks EMA12000 SAN here. Same mix - 
Solaris 8 and Win2000. It works well for us, performs well, disks are 
relatively cheap. In retrospect it was an excellent choice for us.

Comments from Robert Towster

we have sun solaris, HPUX, and NT/2000.
basically what we have is the HP connected directly via scsi to emc 
sun connected via fiber to emc connectrix switch. win2k is connected via 
to the connectrix switch. all the unix is using storage on our symmetrix but
the win2k is actually using storage on a clarion.

Having a san is actually really nice. You can (via software) move volumes
between hosts. EMC software is quite easy to use once you get used to it.

My only complaint about emc on sun hosts (and you may want to find out if
other vendors have a way around this.. if you find one post it in your
summary plz) is that when I add a new "disk" to a sun host I am forced to
reboot in order to add the disk.

Comments from Thomas Anders

Since you have a heterogeneous environment, buy from an integrator
rather than a server vendor. Take care of getting 2Gb FC components
rather than the old 1Gb equipment. As for the storage, consider the
LSI/StorageTek E4600 array which leads the SPC-1 benchmark table
As for the HBAs, consider Qlogic 2300 since you load balance them
with automatic failover on Solaris with mpxio/SUNWsan.


Original Post:


This is a little off topic. My company is planning to implement a SAN in
a few months and I have been researching the technology. Our environment
is mixed Sun(Sol8) and Compaq(NT/2000) servers so the SAN solution must
address needs of all our platforms.

My question is which SAN solutions have been implemented by folks on
this list and what are the pros and cons and pitfalls to avoid. We have
looked at complete solutions from Sun, EMC, Compaq and Hitachi and we
have considered building our own SAN by purchasing storage, switches,
s/w, HBAs etc.

Of course I will summarize the replies back to the list.


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Received on Tue Sep 17 15:07:53 2002

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