Your SAN in the air

There is nothing like writing a weekly column such as this to really understand the meaning of “you can’t please them all.” It’s not that we dislike disagreements; indeed, your two faithful authors sometimes hold different points of view, which we manage to amicably reconcile in our writing without bloodshed.

So dissenting opinions are welcome, but we must admit it’s interesting that we can receive opposite messages for the same column – threats of tar and feathers from some, and enthusiastic applause from others. Oh, well.

At least one reader said that we were not sufficiently reverent when discussing the all-powerful virtualization in one of our recent columns and reminded us that Xiotech has been offering reliable storage virtualization for some time.

Well, thank you for the update, but we never said that virtualization had not been invented yet. Rather, we said that storage virtualization – probably because of its ongoing identity crisis — is not the hottest-selling cookie in the storage bakery, as many salespeople in that market know all too well.

Also, that reader should know that storage virtualization, however it’s defined, is found in the software offered by several other companies.

But moving on … the interesting part of all this virtualization talk is that Xiotech Corp. and its Magnitude “SAN in a box” and REDI (Real-time Data Intelligence) software landed on us almost at the same time with another interesting piece of Xiotech-related news.

In a nutshell, a Canada-based financial institution that adopted Xiotech Magnitude for its storage infrastructure had to solve the problem of connecting its primary and backup locations to maintain a remote replica.

The replication software was the Xiotech REDI SAN Links Replicator, but in these times of miserly budgets, traditional land-based connections appeared to be too expensive. Therefore, the company took the brave decision of connecting its primary and backup site via wireless connection, and company officers estimate the savings over landline alternatives to be in the range of US$50K to $70K per month.

To complete the picture, the company used Nishan Systems Inc. IP switches to wrap its Fibre Channel SAN packets and Proxim Ethernet bridges and radio towers for airborne transmission between the two sites.

The cost savings are certainly eye-catching, and the wireless approaches to disaster recovery have an undeniable set-it-and-forget-it appeal. But before you start building your own radio towers, pause for a second to consider the geography and environmental aspects of your locations. In this case study, the two sites were relatively close and (we assume) had flat land between them.

Add more distance, some hills, or other obstacles in between, and you may have to build more than a couple of towers to achieve a stable connection. Fail to implement encryption, and a nosy and mischievous neighbor can throw your SAN data in the air. Fly your data safely if you must.