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This is a real beginners question, but what physical hardware do you need to link a server to a SAN?

An expansion card? Just a network port?

Thanks

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Depends on the SAN - if it's a Fibre-Channel SAN and you have enough host ports on the SAN itself then you just need a FC HBA and a fibre-pair; if there's not enough ports on the SAN then you need one or more FC switches. If it's an iSCSI SAN then you simply need either a spare network card or even use any you might already be using.

Let us know some more details and we'll be able to add more ok.

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Just to add a couple thoughts to the iSCSI setup. It's best to keep iSCSI SAN network separate from the rest of your network. Either via separate switches or VLANs. –  3dinfluence Mar 5 '10 at 15:37
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A SAN is a network, just that it may use a different protocol than you're used to. Oh, and it's optical, so no electromagnetic crosstalk, but don't over-bend that glass cable. In order to connect from a server to a storage device, you need a Host-Bus Adapter (hint, we also used to call these SCSI adapters) and a storage device with a FA (Front-end adapter) port. Also, some fire channel cable to connect the two. If you're not using a switch, you can connect HBA to FA to simply extend your SCSI bus.

If you include a switch (and we'll all tell you to assume you'll need to networks or two SANs to avoid the single-point-of-failure of a SAN switch failing), now you've got an HBA, and the switch port to which it connects, plus the FA port and the switch port to which it connects. Now you have a SAN, and you can use zoning (think: "Access Control Lists" or "software-defined SCSI bus") to configure who can talk to whom. An outstanding resource would be http://amzn.to/1ndeEBg (Robert Kembel, FibreChannel Introduction).

At 2gb, 4gb, 8gb speed, you've got a 80% efficiency, so 200MByte/sec, 400MByte/sec, or 800MByte/sec respectively. Above 8g, you've got a 97% efficiency; compare that to typically 69% efficiency for ethernet under full utilization, and you'll see why some people are soapboxers for FC, but that's like being Samsung fanboys or Apple fanboys. It might work for you and make you appear to be a rockstar, or not.

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