SOURCE: Bruce Boyers Marketing Services

June 23, 2011 07:25 ET

Optimization of SAN: Keeping It Simple

BURBANK, CA--(Marketwire - Jun 23, 2011) - It may appear to some that as computer technology evolves, it becomes more and more complex. While that may be true in some respects, from an overall perspective the exact opposite is the case: innovations have made technology increasingly capable, but at the same time brought it to be far simpler to deploy and operate.

A recent achievement in the storage arena has been Storage Area Networks (SANs). With this technology, data no longer needs to be stored on company servers, and server power and network capacity can be fully utilized for business applications. Flexible administration allows for moving of storage from one server to another without the requirement of shifting physical storage devices and cables. Time to commission a new server can also be greatly shorted as servers can be booted from the SAN itself.

There are a number of technologies which allow SAN to be as efficient as it is, including RAID, I/O caching, snapshots and volume cloning. But despite these robust innovations, the simplicity and power which SAN provides can be undermined by one factor: file fragmentation. Originally developed for the purpose of better utilizing disk space in direct attached storage devices, fragmentation is the splitting of files into pieces (fragments). Because of the numerous advancements associated with SANs, some think that it does not suffer from fragmentation.

On the contrary, fragmentation has a heavy impact on SANs, from a logical, not a physical level. Data is written and read by the OS's file system which, by its very nature, fragments files. Data from the viewpoint of the NAS may appear efficiently arranged -- but from the viewpoint of the file system it is severely fragmented.

Fragmentation takes a substantial toll on performance because files are then read or written in tens or thousands of fragments. Unexpected hangs and disk crashes are common in the presence of fragmentation, and a heavy toll is taken on hardware as well; 50 percent or more of disk lifespans can be lost due to the extra intensive I/O operations.

In the past, defragmenters were used as the solution to fragmentation. But the many innovations utilized with SAN technology mandate a higher level optimization solution which addresses a broader scope of issues than fragmentation alone. With such a solution, the majority of fragmentation is prevented before it occurs. Additionally, files are intelligently ordered for faster access and other technologies are employed to automatically maximize system performance and reliability.

SANs bring yet another level of simplicity to computer operations. With the proper optimization, the power and convenience which SANs provide can be fully realized.

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