Well-made professional education is worth every cent, but in today's world controlled by CFOs everything costing money will be challenged sooner or later. And if you search for freebies you often end up with the first 3-4 sentences of an obviously good book about the topic and the prompt to register with your business information and email address. Weeks of business SPAM will follow then even if you unsubscribe again. Here are some good free books to get a good understanding of SAN switching and how it's implemented by the both big players Cisco and Brocade without the need to register for anything.
Working at IBM I appreciate their Redbooks program. Experts from in- and outside IBM share their knowledge in for of these comprehensive ebooks. This one is a good introduction to SAN and how IBM does it. You learn how Fibre Channel works, the hardware, the software, the management, the use cases and the design considerations. And of course it covers the IBM products in that area, too.
Regular readers of my blog (are there any?) may know my opinion about the SNIA Dictionary, but for learning Storage Networking it's still a good source of definitions and explanations for many of the common terms and concepts. Get it directly from snia.org.
Cisco MDS 9000 Family Switch Architecture
This document is also known as “A Day in the Life of a Fibre Channel Frame” and I like it. Although it certainly saw some summers and winters since its release in 2006 but the general architecture is still the same. Of course everything is integrated and consolidated in the latest products, but if you ever understood how a frame is handled by a n older generation Cisco switch, it won't be a problem to work with, design for, or even troubleshoot the newest ones.
Brocade Fabric OS Administrator's Guide
While Brocade is certainly not revealing too much about the internals of their switches, the admin guide is still a good source of information about the Brocade features and implementations. Many SAN questions I'm asked in an average week could easily be answered by a glimpse into this guide. There is a new one for each new major codestream, so always look in the one for your installed FabricOS version. This is the link for FabricOS v7.2.
The remaining two ebooks on my list are specifically for performance troubleshooting... ...my hobbyhorse somehow.
Slow Drain Device Detection and Congestion Avoidance
This one is from Cisco and it covers the different types of performance problems pretty well. If you read the one about Cisco architecture before (see above) you can get much more out of this piece as well. It has some good example, troubleshooting approaches and explanations for the counters you might see. A definite must-read.
IBM Redpaper: Fabric Resiliency Best Practices
This one is about Brocade switches and the IBM version of their "SAN Fabric Resiliency Best Practices". After explaining the fundamentals about SAN performance it shows you how performance troubleshooting is done on a Brocade fabric, especially by using built-in features like bottleneckmon.
I'm sure there are many other good learning materials out there that don't exist for the sole reason to catch your contact addresses by registration. If you know some that should be on this list as well, please let me know. Thanks!