Q

Implementing a SAN with a backup solution

We are in the process of defining our requirements for upgrading our backup software and hardware solution, and implementing a SAN solution for the enterprise. Question is, which one comes first?

I believe they are integrated and that we need to pursue a backup solution due to current issues, but I do not want to over purchase on the tape arrays and hardware. What are other organizations doing?
That is an excellent question that unfortunately, not enough people ask themselves before designing a new storage infrastructure.

I must start by saying your first assumption is correct, they are integrated and should ideally be designed jointly. I am saying designed jointly, but not necessarily purchased and deployed jointly. You can easily purchase Fibre Channel-enabled tape drives for your backup solution without purchasing an entire SAN solution for both tape and disk all at once. With FC tape drives attached to your backup server -- point-to-point FC or through a switch -- you can still do backups across the LAN as you would with SCSI-attached tape drives.

You could later add a FC-enabled disk array, and expand your SAN to have both disk and tape devices accessible through a FC switch. This would then allow you to consider LAN-free backups, and potentially even server-free backups at some point.

The key factor is to avoid making restrictive choices when purchasing your initial Fibre tape drives. You must make sure that whatever component you incorporate in your design will all be compatible, even if some components will be purchased at a later date.

In short, if your first priority is to replace your backup infrastructure. I recommend that you design your entire solution "to be" now and validate the compatibility of all the design elements. You can then start implementing the Fibre tape technology, followed later by Fibre-attached disk on the SAN. This way, you can avoid replacing components down the road for support reason.

I hope this helps.

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This was first published in June 2004

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