Archive for the ‘sans architecture software startups scaling performance’ Tag

Should I get a SAN to scale my site architecture?

A friend who runs a popular web photo hosting service called me today with a scaling question:

“What do you think about getting a SAN to help me scale my storage needs as my site scales?”

After a bit of discussion, I told him what I knew about the technology which was that I knew people who had had good experiences running large sites using SANS for just about all their storage needs, and I knew people who suffered long outages when their SAN had a controller failure or other fundamental problem. These people had hung out waiting for their vendor to fly someone out to fix the problem or bring a replacement system.

Think about this: your site is completely down, you have no access to your data, and you have to wait for someone to get on a plane to come fix it while you’re sitting around with a bunch of engineers who can fix most other problems in a few minutes.

For a typical web company hours or days of downtime is absolutely unacceptable and a risk to the entire business. I think the lesson here is that using commodity hardware instead of proprietary solutions is about more than saving a few dollars on hardware, it’s also about minimizing the risks to your company.

Such a single point of failure from both a technology and business perspective is really putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s really nice to be able to walk down the street to Fry’s to pick up emergency equipment, and it’s also nice to be able to switch vendors when something isn’t working for you. And in the land of startups, that kind of agility and freedom is really, really important because the unexpected happens all the time when you’re scaling the business.

My friend is skipping the SAN for now in favor of a bigger server with fast drives, then partitioning his data across a couple of systems when things really get big.