A storage area network (SAN) is a dedicated network that provides access to consolidated, block level data storage. SANs are primarily used to make storage devices, such as disk arrays and tape libraries, accessible to servers, so that the devices look to the operating system like locally attached devices. A SAN typically has its own network of storage devices that are generally not accessible for other devices through the local area network. The cost and complexity of SANs dropped at the beginning of the century to levels allowing wider use across both enterprise and small- to medium-sized business environments.
A SAN does not provide file abstraction, only block-level operations. However, file systems built on top of SANs do provide file-level access, and are known as SAN file systems or shared disk file systems.
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