On Monday, the road to iSCSI deployment got a bit smoother when Microsoft released its iSCSI driver for Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional .
The release of a driver is seldom front-page news, but in this case, the release of Microsofts iSCSI driver means hardware and software engineers have one less variable to worry about when doing interoperability tests. (The driver can be downloaded from here.)
Most people cringe—and rightly so—when they hear about SAN interoperability problems in the Fibre Channel world (which have taken years to hammer out). Interoperability headaches are the last thing IP storage vendors need.
I have no problems with the available drivers, from vendors like Cisco. Like it or not, however, having a single driver maintained and pushed by Microsoft should make iSCSI easier to troubleshoot and deploy. Furthermore, Im sure Cisco would be happy to not have the added responsibility of keeping its own driver updated.
Why should we care that Windows has a driver? Well, since iSCSI is not a blazing-fast storage networking solution, many iSCSI vendors will be steering their products toward the low to midrange server market, where Windows servers are common.
Linux servers also occupy this segment of the market, but I expect Linux developers to more or less standardize on the driver developed by the Linux-iSCSI project.
Because Unix vendors such as Sun and IBM have a tight hold over their hardware, I dont expect them to have many interoperability problems.
Within the next few years, iSCSIs cost efficiency and capabilities should make it one of the most widespread storage networking technologies.
Before anything can happen, though, a solid iSCSI driver needs to provide a foundation to build upon.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at email@example.com.