Storage Firms Embraces iSCSI

A number of storage solutions vendors quickly announced support for Internet SCSI (iSCSI) following the standard’s ratification last week by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Network Appliance (NetApp) Monday will bring iSCSI products to the fore and made some upgrades to its hardware and software lines.

On Friday, Adaptec,announced full product support for the iSCSI and said its complete line of iSCSI ASICs and host bus adapters will be available later this quarter.

The solution born of a new standard

What IT folks like about iSCSI (pronounced “I-scuzzy”) is that it allows the creation of less storage area networks (SANs) using Ethernet infrastructures at a less expensive rate than traditional Fibre Channel protocols.

Phil Williams, VP of Strategic Alliances and Business Development at NetApp, said NetApp is offering iSCSI as a free second protocol for F800 and FAS900 series customers, the latter of which was launched last October as the industry’s first unified storage engine capable of handling networked storage in SAN and/or NAS mode.

In a pact with the top chipmaker, NetApp will use the Intel PRO/1000 T IP Storage Adapter for its host attach kits. The two companies will also collaborate to expand the iSCSI market with education, deployment and implementation recommendation guides, and certification and interoperability testing.

Williams said using iSCSI for small and medium size businesses who want to set up remote offices is easier than Fibre Channel, of which he said “people require almost a PhD to understand.”

Williams’ colleague, NetApp Director of Technology and Strategy Keith Brown, agreed with Williams, and added that Fibre Channel “really struggles in terms of standards, interoperability, complexity and costs.”

With iSCSI, you can implement the semantic equivalent of a Fibre Channel SAN using just Linksys switches for a couple of hundreds of dollars,” Brown said.

Pushan Rinnen, Senior Analyst in the Network Attached Storage group at Gartner, said iSCSI represents an opportunity for enterprise customers to migrate to networked storage and benefit from simplified administration at a less expensive cost. For storage vendors, Gartner estimated the market opportunity at over $10 billion.

“The majority of the storage market is still direct-attached storage, although SAN is gaining steam,” Rinnen explained. “Network Appliance is one of what will be many firms using iSCSI to target a vastly untapped market. They want to meet customers demand for easier storage management, while trying to avoid the complexity and cost of a SAN.”

While Rinnen said iSCSI cannot quite rival the power of Fibre Channel in terms of powering high-performance applications, she said it will be good for the majority of lighter applications.

NetApp iSCSI products are available immediately for Microsoft Windows environments, while similar items for Linux are available for beta testing.

The products

NetApp also made news on the hardware and software fronts Monday. Targeted for medium and large businesses are NearStore R150, SnapVault, MetroCluster, and a certified NearStore and VERITAS Volume Replicator offering, all of which kick in when disaster strikes to make sure networks maintain data integrity.

NearStore R150 is the latest member of the NearStore family, a hard disk backup/recovery and nearline storage line that competes with products from StorageTek and EMC. Williams said NearStore R150 doubles capacity to 24TB per module and provides twice the backup throughput (up to 430GB per hour) for a penny per megabyte.

NetApp also aired its latest iteration of SnapVault backup software, which makes use of open Network Data Management Protocol APIs to support backups from NetApp and non-NetApp. This, Williams said, will vault SnapVault into heterogeneous storage environments, where it may work with the products of other firms such as Atempo, BakBone, CommVault, Computer Associates, Legato systems, Reliaty, Syncsort and Veritas.

MetroCluster is NetApp’s new business continuance software. The company guarantees fast site failover capability to remote data centers with little management from IT managers. It features synchronous replication over campus/metro distances and extends clustering technology to sites located miles apart.

VFM 3.0 is a refresh of firm’s automated storage management product and, according to Williams, is the industry’s first file-level storage virtualization software. It uses namespace and file virtualization to manage distributed file storage in networked enterprises in Windows and UNIX platforms. Enhancements to VFM include simplified failover monitoring to maintain uptime, transparent data migration to facilitate storage consolidation and business continuance, and the elimination of name space management overhead to make massive storage management easier.

As a general comment about NetApp’s data recovery products, Brown extolled the virtues of disk technology over its tape cousin. He used a football analogy to drive his point home.

“Say the tape is your line of defense, which you put up to protect you from data loss,” Brown explained. “It’s trying to play every position on the field. The problem is that tape technology has not been keeping pace with disk technology. It can play some of the positions, but once it reaches its capacity point it stops. What happens then is the tape is being pushed back, and it is unable to stop the data loss touchdown from scoring. Our disk technology acts as the free safety to stop the data loss.”

Meanwhile, Adaptec has completed development of the company’s ASIC products for iSCSI and Fibre Channel-to-IP solutions.

In addition, Adaptec is currently conducting beta deployments of iSCSI storage area networks in conjunction with several OEM partners. Adaptec products are installed at multiple beta sites representing a wide variety of industries including manufacturing, education and government. Deployments include iSCSI SANs supporting Windows and Linux servers running Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SQL Server applications.