This post was written by Michael Vannette who is a Technical Design Authority / Solutions Architect for SIS.

All too often, I am asked “Which Storage Protocol is best?” I get this inquiry from all types – Clients, Account Managers, Application Developers, etc. No matter the source of the question, I typically respond “That depends on what you want to do?” This is no different when it comes to storage communication protocols.

NAS or SAN? CIFS or NFS? Fibre Channel or iSCSI? SAS or Infiniband? The questions and comparisons are seemingly endless. To make it a little easier to understand how I view the differences, I’d like to equate the protocols to spoken language. Each language contains its own nuances, but ultimately they each convey information. Some may be able to describe snow forty different ways. Others may require capabilities like rolling “R’s” or glottal stops. Some even may take longer to get the point across to another person. The key is they all can pass data from person to person.

When I’m designing Storage Solutions, it is imperative for me to understand the purpose of the data and how succinct it needs to be in providing it. Here are some of the key questions that help point to one protocol over another: 

Is the application written to work with direct attached disk?

Is this a tier 3 application where performance isn’t an issue?

Is the data going to be rarely accessed?

What physical infrastructure is in place?

What hosts are you using?

As a general rule, highest disk performance and response time will come from storage protocols that are as close to internal disk as possible (Fibre Channel, Infiniband, SAS) where the infrastructure is specially designed for data transmission and availability. Alternatively, less important or general-purpose applications can affordably use traditionally slower protocols (NFS, SMB, iSCSI). Advanced functionality issues such as replication, data protection, or data mobility can also help determine the need for faster or slower protocols. This again leads us to the question “Which protocol is best for my needs?”

Ultimately, an experienced partner/vendor is often your best bet in helping to determine the needs of your business. Because there typically is not a standard answer/solution in considering various storage protocols, your partner will help determine the most cost and performance effective options for you.

Mike is a key member of our Enterprise Storage Professionals


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