By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-02-13 Print this article Print

Our performance numbers show that iSCSI is a performance contender, but the technology looks even better when cost is considered.

The core cost savings from iSCSI technology come from the fact that it uses standard, off-the-shelf Gigabit Ethernet switches and adapters to connect iSCSI storage systems to the servers that need to use them. With Fibre Channel solutions, in contrast, IT managers need to buy additional switches, host bus adapters and expensive cabling to build their SANs.

For example, the Fibre Channel-based AX100 bundle used in our testbed—including the storage system, an APC UPS (uninterruptible power supply) unit, a Brocade Fibre Channel switch, two QLogic Fibre Channel adapters and cables—costs $17,522. In contrast, the iSCSI bundle we tested with—including the AX100i with the APC UPS unit—costs $13,719.

A cost savings of $4,000 or so might not sound like a whole lot, but the gap widens further for every server you add.

Another important factor to consider when choosing between Fibre Channel and iSCSI is that, while every IT manager is familiar with Ethernet and IP networking, few administrators, especially in the SMB space, have the skills necessary to manage and maintain a Fibre Channel SAN. Enterprises can expect to save tens of thousands of training and maintenance dollars over time when going with an iSCSI solution.

So, how does the future for these two technologies look? Well, with Fibre Channel advancing to 4G-bps speeds, we expect Fibre Channel products to retain their dominant position at the high end of the market. As iSCSI continues to improve, we expect products based on the technology not only to challenge Fibre Channel for the midrange but also to build up the market for smaller companies still stuck on DAS (direct-attached storage).

E-mail Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

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