Dave Robertson asks: "Fibre channel storage has been filtering down from the rarefied heights of big business and is now beginning to be a sensible option for smaller enterprises and institutions. An illuminating example of this is Apple's Xserve Raid which has set a new low price point for this type of storage - with some compromises, naturally. Fibre channel switches and host bus adapters have also fallen in price but generally, storage arrays such as those from Infortrend or EMC are still aimed at the medium to high-end enterprise market and are priced accordingly. These units are expensive in part because they aim to have very high availability and are therefore well-engineered and provide dual redundant everything." This brings us to the question: Is it possible to build your own Fibre Channnel storage array?"In some alternative markets - education for example - I see a need for server storage systems with very high transaction rates (I/Os per second) and the flexibility of FC, but without the need for very high availability and without the ability to pay enterprise prices. The Xserve Raid comes close to meeting the need but its major design compromise is to use ATA drives, thus losing the high I/O rate of FC drives.
I'm considering building my own experimental fibre channel storage unit. Disks are available from Seagate, and SCA to FC T-card adapters are also available. A hardware raid controller would also be nice.
Before launching into the project, I'd like to cast the net out and solicit the experiences and advice of anyone who has tried this. It should be relatively easy to create a single-drive unit similar to the Apcon TestDrive or a JBOD, but a RAID array may be more difficult. The design goals are to achieve a high I/O rate (we'll use postmark to measure this) in a fibre channel environment at the lowest possible price. We're prepared to compromise on availability and 'enterprise management features'. We'd like to use off the shelf components as far as possible.
Seagate has a good fibre channel primer, if you need to refresh your memory."