SAN Interview Questions & Answers
1. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FIBER CHANNEL SANS?
Fiber Channel SANs exceptional reliability, scalability, consolidation, and performance. Fiber Channel SANs provide significant advantages over direct-attached storage through improved storage utilization, higher data availability, reduced management costs, and highly scalable capacity and performance. FC SANs reduce total cost of ownership (TCO).
2. WHAT ENVIRONMENT IS MOST SUITABLE FOR FIBER CHANNEL SANS?
a. Typically, Fiber Channel SANs are most suitable for large data centers running business-critical data, as well as applications that require high-bandwidth performance such as medical imaging, streaming media, and large databases.
b. Fiber Channel SAN solutions can easily scale to meet the most demanding performance and availability requirements.
3. WHAT CUSTOMER PROBLEMS DO FIBER CHANNEL SANS SOLVE?
- Highly effective backup and recovery approach, including LAN-free and server-free backup models
- By providing flexible connectivity options and resource sharing, Fibre Channel SANs also greatly reduce the number of physical devices and disparate systems that must be purchased and managed, which can dramatically lower capital expenditures.
- Heterogeneous SAN management provides a single point of control for all devices on the SAN, lowering costs and freeing personnel to do other tasks.
4. HOW LONG HAS FIBER CHANNEL BEEN AROUND?
Development started in 1988, ANSI standard approval occurred in 1994, and large deployments began in 1998. Fiber Channel is a mature, safe, and widely deployed solution for high-speed (1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16GB) communications and is the foundation for the majority of SAN installations throughout the world
5. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF 4GB FIBER CHANNEL?
Benefits include twice the performance with little or no price increase, investment protection with backward compatibility to 2 GB, higher reliability due to fewer SAN components (switch and HBA ports) required, and the ability to replicate, back up, and restore data more quickly. 4 GB Fiber Channel systems are ideally suited for applications that need to quickly transfer large amounts of data such as remote replication across a SAN, streaming video on demand, modeling and rendering, and large databases. 4 GB technology is shipping today.
6. HOW IS FIBER CHANNEL DIFFERENT FROM ISCSI?
Fiber Channel generally provides high performance and high availability for business-critical applications, usually in the corporate data center. (High-end)
In contrast, iSCSI is generally used to provide SANs for smaller regional or departmental data centers. (Mid-range)
7. WHEN SHOULD I DEPLOY FIBER CHANNEL INSTEAD OF ISCSI?
For environments consisting of high-end servers that require high bandwidth or data center environments with business-critical data, Fiber Channel is a better fit than iSCSI. For environments consisting of many midrange or low-end servers, an IP SAN solution often delivers the most appropriate price/performance.
8. WHAT IS THE NEED FOR SEPARATE NETWORK FOR STORAGE ?
WHY LAN CANNOT BE USED ?
LAN hardware and operating systems are geared to user traffic, and LANs are tuned for a fast user response to messaging requests.
With a SAN, the storage units can be secured separately from the servers and totally apart from the user network enhancing storage access in data blocks (bulk data transfers), advantageous for server-less backups.
If the customer wants to have implement iSCSI San & normal network in the same server or storage, he has to use separate adapters for both.
For eg: 1 network card for normal management or network teaming & another card in another slot for iSCSI SAN.
9. WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF RAID?
“Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks”
Depending on how we configure the array, we can have the
– data mirrored [RAID 1] (duplicate copies on separate drives)
– striped [RAID 0] (interleaved across several drives), or
– parity protected [RAID 5](extra data written to identify errors).
These can be used in combination to deliver the balance of performance and reliability that the user requires.
10. DEFINE RAID. WHICH ONE DO YOU RECOMMEND AS A GOOD CHOICE?
RAID (Redundant array of Independent Disks) is a technology to achieve redundancy with faster I/O. There are Many Levels of RAID to meet different needs of the customer which are: R0, R1, R3, R4, R5, R10, R6.
R0 – Striped set without parity
- High performance
- No redundancy
- Not good for critical data, but good for data streaming.
- Any 1 drive failure leads to data loss.
R1 – Mirrored set without parity.
- Data is mirrored as 2 sets.
- Data is still accessible in 1 drive failure condition. More than 1 wil cause data loss.
- Using RAID 1 with a separate controller for each disk is sometimes called duplexing
R3 – Striped set with dedicated parity
Not commonly used
R4 – Block level striping with parity.
Not commonly used
R5 – Striped set with distributed parity.
- Since RAID 5 works on XOR formula and XOR formula needs 3 bits for calculation, the minimum number of drives in RAID 5 are 3.
- Here is the XOR table:
0 X 0 = 0
1 X 1 = 0
1 X 0 = 1
0 X 1 = 0
- The parity is distributed, and even in n-1 drive failure, we can access the data.
- The array will have data loss in the event of a second drive failure
R6 – Striped set with dual distributed Parity.
- Same as in RAID-5, but calculates 2 parity for double redundancy and the parity is distributed across the drives.
- Array continues to operate with up to two failed drives. This makes larger RAID groups more practical, especially for high availability systems.
- RAID-6 is also called ADG~Advanced Data Guard
CHOICE OF RAID:
Every RAID level is perfect at it’s own level, it purely depends up on customer’s need & the setup.
11. WHAT ARE THE LAYERS OF SAN?
1. Client layer
2. Server layer
3. Fabric layer
4. Storage layer
12. What are the difference between RAID 0+1 and RAID 1+0
RAID 0+1 (Mirrored Stripped)
The data is striped first and then the final data is stored in mirrored volumes.
RAID 1+0 (Stripped Mirrored)
The data is mirrored first and then the stored in striped volumes.
This RAID level is most preferred for high performance and high data protection because rebuilding of RAID 1+0 is less time consuming in comparison to RAID 0+1.
13. When JBOD’s are used?
“Just Bunch of Disks”
It is a collection of disks that share a common connection to the server, without any RAID.
There is no intelligent storage controller or cache in JOBDs. Most of the JBODs are used as DAS (direct attached storage)
14. Differentiate RAID & JBOD?
RAID: “Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks”
Fault-tolerant grouping of disks that server sees as a single disk volume
Combination of parity-checking, mirroring, striping
JBOD: “Just a Bunch of Disks”
Drives independently attached to the I/O channel
Scalable, but requires server to manage multiple volumes.
Do not provide protection in case of drive failure
15. What is an HBA?
Host bus adapters (HBAs) are needed to connect the server (host) to the storage. They are the initiators in iSCSI environment. Some of the vendors, who are market leaders, are Qlogic, Emulex, Brocade etc.
16. What are the advantages of SAN?
Massively extended scalability
Greatly enhanced device connectivity
Server-less (active-fabric) backup
Heterogeneous data sharing
Disaster recovery – Remote mirroring.
17. What is a typical storage area network consists of – if we consider it for implementation in a small business setup?
Following are essentials components of SAN
- Fabric Switch
- FC Controllers
18. Can you briefly explain each of the Storage area components?
Fabric Switch: It’s a device which interconnects multiple network devices .There are switches starting from 16 port to 512 ports which connect 16 or 32 machine nodes etc. vendors who manufacture these kind of switches are Brocade, cisco, etc.
FC Controllers: These are Data transfer media, which are connected to the HBAs, which sits on PCI slots of Server; you can configure Arrays and volumes on it. The controller has a cache & a battery for better performance.
JBOD: Just Bunch of Disks is Storage Box, it consists of Enclosure where set of hard-drives are hosted in many combinations such SCSI drives, SAS, FC, SATA. No intelligent controllers, and has I/O card which will inturn gets connected to the HBAs on the server’s PCI slot.
19. What is the most critical component in SAN?
Each component has its own criticality with respect to business needs of a company !
20 How is a SAN managed?
There are many management software’s used for managing SAN’s to name a few
- IBM Tivoli Storage Manager.
- Veritas Volumemanger.
- HP’s command view
21. Which one is the Default ID for SCSI HBA?
Generally the default ID for SCSI HBA or the storage controller is 7.
(SCSI- Small Computer System Interface
HBA – Host Bus Adaptor)
22. What is the highest and lowest priority of SCSI?
There are 16 different ID’s which can be assigned to SCSI device 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8.
Highest priority of SCSI is ID 7 and lowest ID is 8.
SCSI supports 16 devices & SCSI HBA support 15 devices (1 for itself)
23. How do you install device drivers of HBA for the first time during OS installation?
In some scenarios you are supposed to install Operating System on the drives connected thru SCSI HBA or SCSI RAID Controllers, but most of the OS will not be updated with drivers for those controllers, that time you need to supply drivers externally, if you are installing windows, you need to press F6 during the installation of OS and provide the driver disk or CD which came along with HBA.
If you are installing Linux you need to type “linux dd” for installing any driver.
24. What is Array?
Array is a group of Independent physical disks to configure any Volumes or RAID volumes.
25. Which are the SAN topologies?
Point to Point topology
Fiber channel Arbitrated Loop
26. Which are the 4 types of SAN architecture types
27. Which command is used in Linux to know the driver version of any hardware device?
28. Can you name some of the states of RAID array?
b. Degraded (working, but 1 more drive failure leads to data loss)
c. Rebuilding (usually happens after failed drive replacement)
29. what is the normal rebuilding rate ?
Depends up on the manufacturer & the I/O.
But usually, to rebuild 1 GB of data takes 15 ~ 20 minutes.
30. Name the features of SCSI-3 standard?
QAS: Quick arbitration and selection
CRC: Cyclic redundancy check
31. Can we assign a hot spare to R0 (RAID 0) array?
No, since R0 is not redundant array, failure of any disks results in failure of the entire array so we cannot rebuild the hot spare for the R0 array.
32. Can you name some of the available tape media types?
There are many types of tape media available to back up the data some of them are
DLT: digital linear tape – technology for tape backup/archive of networks and servers; DLT technology addresses midrange to high-end tape backup requirements.
LTO: linear tape open; a new standard tape format developed by HP, IBM, and Seagate.
AIT: advanced intelligent tape; a helical scan technology developed by Sony for tape backup/archive of networks and servers, specifically addressing midrange to high-end backup requirements.
33. What is HA?
HA( High Availability) is a technology to achieve failover with very less latency. It’s a practical requirement of data centers these days when customers expect the servers to be running 24 hours on all 7 days around the whole 365 days a year – usually referred as 24x7x365. So to achieve this, a redundant infrastructure is created to make sure if one database server or if one app server fails there is a replica Database or Appserver ready to take-over the operations. End customer never experiences any outage when there is a HA network infrastructure.
Below is a picture of basic HA setup. At any point of time, if 1 server and 1 switch and 1 storage fail, even after 3 major box failures, we will still be able to access the data.
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