Eight Ways Traditional SAN Architecture is Failing at Scale

Eight Ways Traditional SAN Architecture is Failing at Scale

At StorPool, we spend a lot of time listening to our customers and prospects. And one of the things that they tend to go on about is how the traditional Storage Area Network (SAN) model, even with very good arrays, just doesn’t work for them at scale whether they are building a public, private or hybrid cloud.

Flexibility and Scalability

Whether you have SAN arrays dedicated to high-performance workloads or if you use the more modern SAN building block model, your flexibility and scalability become limited at scale. Need more capacity? Add more drives. Need more performance? Add more servers. All without downtime.

Common Network Architecture

Our customers and prospects run their data centers on Ethernet. They don’t have or want a separate fiber channel network with expensive HBAs and switches just for storage. When you are talking thousands of servers, the additional cost of just the Fibre Channel HBAs becomes prohibitive.


Modern cloud data centers operate in the Always-on operating model. There are no maintenance windows. Applications work 24×7. It’s not just about fault tolerance. It’s about everything you need to provide reliability, high availability and data integrity. It includes replication and redundancy. But it also includes in-service software upgrades and online configuration changes. Things that you just can’t get with most ordinary SAN models.

Storage Controller Bottlenecks

Controllers often become performance bottlenecks in a traditional storage array. If a controller becomes your performance bottleneck, your choices are limited to three unpleasant options: Upgrade the Controller (disruptive and expensive and not always possible), Upgrade the array (often referred to as a “forklift upgrade“), or live with poor performance. With StorPool, storage performance can always be improved by adding more servers to the solution. Inexpensive and non-disruptive.

Difficult to Manage Availability at Scale

Large-scale (multi-rack) availability is difficult to manage in traditional arrays. For example, taking several racks down to address a power issue would be a major project requiring synchronous replication with a SAN solution. Cloud providers can’t afford to take their customers down, even when the outage is planned.

Hardware Life Cycle alignment

Industry-wide, most organizations refresh their servers every 3-5 years. Cloud Service Providers and Hosting and Managed Services providers usually refresh even more often. But storage arrays have a much longer refresh cycle, sometimes being used well past their useful life in a vain attempt to justify their high cost. With different refresh cycles and likely different vendors on different parts of the stack, upgrades become much more complicated. Our customers prefer to have a single refresh cycle with a single vendor and a single procurement process.

Slow Adoption of New Technology

Traditional storage arrays generally have slow adoption of innovation compared to industry-standard servers. From SSDs to RAID technology to virtualization to Fibre Channel, industry-standard servers have adopted key technologies earlier than storage arrays.

Management at Scale

Traditional SAN arrays are difficult to manage at scale. You always end up with multiple silos to take care of. While some vendors have developed products to address this, our customers prefer an API-driven model, integrated with their Cloud Management Platforms such as CloudStack or OpenStack.

StorPool Storage was built from the ground up to address all of these concerns with software that transforms commodity hardware into a fast, highly available, and scalable shared-storage system for running demanding applications. Our customers appreciate that we understand life at a cloud scale. We understand that it’s not just how you operate your datacenter when everything is running smoothly. It’s how you get there. It’s how you stay there. And it’s how you take your next step to increase performance and reliability for your customers in the future without interrupting them today. If you would like to learn more about how StorPool can help you scale up your business without the failings of the traditional SAN, get in touch.

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