SAN is dead

SAN is dead. Okay, it´s a bold statement, but i think there are several factors, that will lead to an shift in storage architecture within the next few years: Most of the times you need SAN to present a block device to a system that isn´t directly attached to the server. Instead you consolidate the storage at a cental place. Okay, but do you really need a different technology for this. Perhaps the different technology is a future obstacle itself. I want to make some points.

  1. You have already a network in your datacenter, it´s the local area network. It´s questionale, why you need to build up an expensive fibre-optical network to yield meager 4 GBit/s when your networking deparment starts to deploy 10 GBit/s via Copper with 10GBASE-T respectivve 10GBASE-CX4.
  2. The development of ethernet is much fast than the development of Fibrechannel. While development in FC is looking towards 8 GBit/s, the specifcation comitees in Ethernet look at 100 GBit/s right now. The speed gap will rise from 6 GBit/s right now to 92 GBits/s in the not so far feature.
  3. Often people will tell you that iSCSI needs more processing power to be as fast as FC. But: With modern multicore processors like N2, Victoria Falls or Rock you have than enough cores to throw some to the task of doing the TCP/IP respective iSCSI stuff. It´s a minimal ssue today and it get´s a non issue real soon. Take developments like Neptune (our new networking chip) into consideration, and you get the whole picture.
  4. We will run into the need for higher storage speeds real soon now: Imagine a multi processor multi core system: Not the coarse multiproc systems like an Operon. I talk about systems with 16 processors with 32 Threads each. 512 Threads to feed. Each running for example at 1 GHz. (Dear press: No real system, i didn´t used Rock as an example. I know by my logs that you read here) How you want to feed some many hungry mouth ? Plugging large amounts of FC cards at 4 GBit´s into the system. Or plugging a smaller or the same amount of 10 GBit/s cards into the systems. Put 4 FC cards in it and you yield 16 GBit/s, put four 10 GBit/s cards into the system and you yield 40 GBit/s
  5. It think the future massive multicore/multiprocessor systems will be surrounded by X4500 like systems coupled with iSCSI to it. Because: Condense the computing power to a few chip is only half of the story, feeding it with data is the second half.
  6. Security with FC is a major pain in the a… Encryption? No generally implemented standard. Authentication? No generally implemented standard. Now take into consideration that IP has the well established standard IPsec for this task and more and more new processor designs have dedicated computing resources for encryption? Imagine a certificate based authentication of servers to the storage devices. Imagine that you can only see storage devices when you have an unrevoked and signed certificate. You can leverage this technologies from IPsec without further thinking about it. I don´t think that the demise of FC will be a fast death. Not a one or two year horizon. By the sheer installed mass of FC it will be a long one. But changing paragims in building systems will demand a much faster development of new levels of speed than in FC technology. This is the chance of Ethernet and iSCSI. So think about a 5 year horizon. I would like to hear you comments about my thoughts.