A storage area network (SAN) is a dedicated high-speed network or subnetwork that interconnects and presents shared pools of storage devices to multiple servers.
A SAN moves storage resources off the common user network and reorganizes them into an independent, high-performance network. This enables each server to access shared storage as if it were a drive directly attached to the server. When a host wants to access a storage device on the SAN, it sends out a block-based access request for the storage device.
A storage area network is typically assembled using three principle components: cabling, host bus adapters (HBAs), and switches attached to storage arrays and servers. Each switch and storage system on the SAN must be interconnected, and the physical interconnections must support bandwidth levels that can adequately handle peak data activities. IT administrators manage storage area networks centrally.
Storage arrays were initially all hard disk drive systems, but are increasingly populated with flash solid-state drives (SSDs).