Fibre Channel SAN Security

Thursday, 5 September 2002, 9:40 AM EST

Like so many terms in the networking industry, "Storage Area Network" (SAN) boasts a bevy of definitions. Semantics aside, whatever form of SAN you construct must be secure enough to avoid the risk of losing or compromising critical data.

Here, "SAN" refers to a network of devices (typically storage devices and servers) that communicate using a serial SCSI protocol such as Fibre Channel or iSCSI. This article focuses on Fibre Channel-based SAN security.

In their brief history, Fibre Channel SANs have been perceived by many as inherently secure compared to more traditional storage technologies. This is partially due to the fact that SANs are dedicated networks typically devoted to enabling communication between storage devices and computers. This has contributed to the Fibre Channel SAN's image of being less vulnerable to security breaches on the enterprise network. In addition, Fibre Channel SANs are based on optical fiber, which is more resistant to sniffing than copper cabling. And many would argue that traditional Fibre Channel SANs that aren't linked to the Internet are less likely to be compromised than IP-based (read: Internet-connected) networked storage systems.

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