Storage networking represents a fundamental paradigm shift in how data is stored and accessed within computer systems. Consistent with any major technological change, storage networking brings with it the challenge to understand new models of storage architectures and, more importantly, the realities of integrating new solutions into the data center. Storage Networks: The Complete Reference was researched, designed, and developed to be a general, yet pragmatic, reference for those in the IT community who are already entrenched (or plan to be involved) in this fast moving, and at times, difficult-to-understand storage foundation for the future.
I believe storage networks to be the first major enhancement in computer architecture since the client/server revolution began in the late 1980s. Since that time, the need to store greater amounts of data has never ceased. The success of the client/server phenomenon pushed the processing power of the server component technologies to new levels that in turn exceeded the limits of storage devices and their related connectivity components . This situation drove systems and storage vendors to develop an ever-increasing, yet short-lived, set of disk and tape products that reflected the exponential appetite of end users for increasing capacities of online data. Within the search for higher capacity devices with faster access to data, the combined interests of the vendor and user communities lead to the development and formation of two influential standards, the Peripheral Component Interface (PCI) and the Small Computer Systems Interconnect (SCSI). These standards formed the initial foundations that focused attention on the I/O challenges within the client/server architectures and enabled, more than ever before, peripheral components to be connected to servers allowing additional devices to operate using those connections.
However, even these innovations could not effectively manage the torrent of storage demands that increased exponentially during the 1990s. The storage industry and data centers of the time searched for new ways that this overwhelming capacity of storage could be installed and accessed. This provided much of the emphasis to shift the storage connectivity paradigm from a direct connect model to a network model. With storage networking concepts emerging as a viable storage solution, this enabled two things. First, it uncovered an existing model of storage networking from the shadows of a specialized UNIX orientation, the Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. Secondly, it encouraged and spawned the integration of existing technologies to proliferate storage on its own network, thus developing into the Storage Area Network (SAN) model.
Storage networking products both in the SAN and NAS industries proliferated during the late 1990s when the technology investments were at their peak. The disparate innovation and technology du jour development this often produced has leveled into an established industry with both established and entrepreneurial players. Storage networking has crossed the product chasm and continues to evolve rapidly , although with more emphasis on data-center value and integration. Advancements are moving forward with storage initiatives such as iSCSI and connectivity through related advancements like InfiniBand and RapidIO.
Unfortunately, the value that storage networking brings to the IT community remains so diverse that it can easily become compromised by the complexities of installation and management. The most important aspect to storage networking is leveraging the value of a diverse set of solutions. I believe this will be the critical motivator in the evolution of storage networking both now and in the foreseeable future. Establishing an understanding of storage networking and identifying components of a storage networking solution and their application within the data center became key design goals for this book.
Storage Networks: The Complete Reference was designed to be a general reference for the IT community. The book was developed to address the pragmatic issues that relate to learning a new technology, understanding it, and applying it from an IT perspective. As with all reference material, it can be used in a number of ways. First, as a reference in understanding the concepts behind storage networks. Secondly, as a tool to help plan and target applications of the technology. Finally, the book is meant as an extended reference in helping your activities move beyond installation and into maintenance and management. However, it can also be used as a curriculum for classroom studies, whether employing the complete book or its parts in a formal or informal educational setting. Usage of the book depends on your existing knowledge of computers and, specifically , storage systems.
The book is intended for IT professionals who have a need to understand storage networking and its related issues from a data-center perspective. The examples in the book are composites of real-life situations and are intended to reflect major points in planning, installing, and managing storage networking in the data center.
I believe storage networking will continue to evolve into its own infrastructure, and storage networking will form the cornerstone of this migration and evolution, subsequently changing the landscape of data centers of the future.