Gartner Research

Storage Area Network (SAN) Protocols

Published: 14 November 2011

ID: G00225477

Analyst(s): Matthew Brisse


Storage area networks (SANs) are the lifeblood of the organization's most valuable asset -- customer data. How to deliver the data is much debated among IT professionals. SAN protocol selection is a daunting task, complicated by the many protocol choices. Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) has been the de facto standard, but as Ethernet begins to dominate the data center, protocols such as Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI), Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), ATA over Ethernet (AoE), and Internet FCP (iFCP) have entered the scene. This document helps organizations decide on the right storage area protocol for data center SANs.

Table Of Contents

Decision Point

Decision Context

Evaluation Criteria

  • Requirements
    • Cheaper Storage
    • Additional SAN Access
    • Core SAN Requirements
  • Constraints
    • Cost, Maturity, and Adoption of the Protocol
    • Staffing and Skill Sets
    • Manageability
    • Scalability and Flexibility
    • Application and Infrastructure Interoperability
  • Principles
    • Cost vs. Competitive Advantage
    • Dedicated SAN Network or Converged Network
    • Single or Multiple Protocol Strategy
  • Alternatives
    • Single-Protocol Strategy
    • Multi-Protocol Strategy
    • FCP Strategy
    • FCoE Strategy
    • iSCSI Strategy

Future Developments

  • Fibre Channel Protocol
  • RDMA Over Converged Ethernet
  • Fibre Channel Over TCP/IP
  • Internet FCP
  • Decision Tool
    • Using the Decision Tool

Recommended Reading

Revision History


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