The existing storage area network marketplace is dominated by Fibre Channel SANs at the high end. Large-scale enterprises and service providers have the need, resources, and expertise to build and manage two separate network infrastructures (storage and standard data communications). Medium-sized businesses and even some larger enterprises and small businesses have eyed the benefits of SANs hungrily, but so far have been reluctant to jump on board for lack of resources, expertise, and courage. For these users, iSCSI may provide the answer theyve been looking for. As a result, interest in iSCSI has taken off this year, and the standard is progressing pretty quickly.
Over 60 companies have jumped on board the iSCSI Working Group of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA). Intel, Adaptec, Emulex, Alacritech, and QLogic have shipped host bus adapters, with TCP/IP and iSCSI protocol processing on board using ASICs. IBM has an iSCSI storage system, and Cisco has two iSCSI to Fibre Channel routers. Numerous other vendors have also rolled out iSCSI hardware or plan to soon (see Companies to Watch list below).
In early September 2002, the Storage Network Industry Association IP Storage Forum (SNIA IPS Forum) and its member companies announced that the iSCSI standard had completed the IETF IPS Working Groups "last call," which means the standard was technically complete with only minor editorial comments remaining. It was then submitted to the IETF Steering Group (IESG) for review, which usually takes from three to six months, according to Ahmad Zamer, iSCSI subgroup chairman for the SNIA IPS Forum. This means that a final standard should be approved by February 2003. There have already been several iSCSI plugfests to test product compatibility and interoperability, mostly at the University of New Hampshire. Cisco offers a number of universal drivers for Ethernet cards, and Intels Architecture Lab released an open source reference platform for storage device vendors to help them develop switches, routers, and adapters that comply with the spec.