For the last few years, iSCSI has been promoted as the future of storage networking. Talk of the Internet Engineering Task Force standard becoming the dominant storage protocol is still premature, but iSCSI is a useful tool for expanding the range of storage area networks and should spur SAN adoption by providing an inexpensive way to leverage storage networking.
iSCSI encapsulates storage data into the well-known and widely used IP protocol, allowing IT managers to transfer storage traffic through standard Ethernet networking equipment. Through the use of an iSCSI driver, for example, a generic Gigabit Ethernet card can be made to look and function like a storage host bus adapter, allowing IT managers to access networked storage on a block level.
eWEEK Labs tests and on-site evaluations have shown that iSCSI can be useful and cost-effective if employed in the right scenarios.
For example, during a visit to the Public Broadcasting Service, in Alexandria, Va., we saw an excellent example of how organizations with expensive Fibre Channel storage systems can leverage iSCSI to present storage resources to stranded servers. PBS uses StoneFly Networks Inc.s Storage Concentrator i1500FS systems, which provide real-time management, storage provisioning, virtualization and management capabilities in an IP-based SAN environment.
We reviewed in our lab the newest version of the Storage Concentrator, the i3000, and found that it improves port flexibility while adding important mirroring capabilities.
The future of iSCSI may be seen in Intransa Inc.s IP5000 storage array, one of the first native iSCSI storage devices available. The IP5000 will allow IT managers to build IP-only SANs (with no SCSI or Fibre Channel storage).
However, weve found that iSCSI performance is still lacking—it will not replace Fibre Channel for performance-sensitive applications.
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Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at [email protected]