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Issue of April 2005 

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SAN for the masses

Information networks straddle the world. Nothing remains concealed. But the sheer volume of information dissolves the information. We are unable to take it all in.
-Günther Grass, German author

This month, we examine an area of perennial interest to CIOs, namely, storage. If there's one segment of the IT industry where the old cliché of change being the only constant holds true, it is in the storage technology vertical.

Why is storage so vital? Well, storage is all about data which is related to another concept that is the bedrock of modern business, viz, information.

So how does storage facilitate the exchange and use of information? Let's take the case of an enterprise that deploys a SAN. All of a sudden, data that lay on multiple servers is all on a consolidated storage infrastructure and the ponderous chore of transforming that raw data into meaningful information becomes that much easier.

The next stumbling block is the cost of a conventional SAN. These have become cheaper but we're still talking in terms of lakhs of rupees which may be a bit much for an SMB or even a departmental implementation in a large enterprise. There is a way out though and it's called IP storage. To be specific, there's a technology called IP SAN that complements FC SAN in situations where the requirements are not quite mission critical but are still vital.

That's the reason behind the growing importance of IP in storage. IP's attraction is easy to understand, every organisation has IT staff who are well versed in it. The promise is that using IP in storage lets enterprises do away with having two separate networks—one for their PCs and servers and the other for storage. Anil Patrick examines this and other arguments put forward in favour of as well as against IP-based storage and attempt to give you a balanced and clear picture of what is and isn't as well as when and how IP-based storage should be piloted and deployed.

Deepali Gupta examines how enterprises can use IP storage protocols such as iFCP and FCIP to mirror their storage across locations using existing WAN links. Soutiman Das Gupta examines deployments at Wipro Spectramind and HDFC Standard Life that reveal how India Inc. is using IP SAN technology to its advantage. The bottomline is that technology is only important as long as it facilitates business. IP SAN does that by reducing the cost of accessing and leveraging information in some scenarios.

As Jean Baudrillard said, "Information can tell us everything. It has all the answers. But they are answers to questions we have not asked, and which doubtless don't even arise."

Prashant L Rao
Head of Editorial Operations

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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