The storage conundrum got a bit rosier for small and midsize enterprises last week with 3Wares announcement of a pizza-box-size device that plugs into Ethernet, uses little power and stores 640 gigabytes of information.
"Its going to be an excellent way for people to network information in smaller organizations," said Tony Prigmore, senior analyst of The Enterprise Storage Group.
3Wares approach uses the Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI, pronounced eye-SKUZ-zy), a proposed open standard endorsed by Cisco Systems, IBM and other heavyweights that is designed to bring IP convenience to storage area networks (SANs). The interface standard can be used to ease the transfer of data over intranets and manage storage over long distances on IP networks.
Until recently, only the largest corporations could afford SANs, because the only way to create them was with a Fibre Channel approach, requiring expensive switches and multiple servers — not to mention lots of tech support — to build a separate network.
3Ware, which has 50 announced customers, was first out with a low-cost, easy-to-install storage solution based on the iSCSI standard. In June, IBM started deploying its 200i platform, also based on the new standard.
The University of Utah uses 3Wares devices to store the massive amounts of information needed for research in high-level physics, gene decoding, theoretical mathematics, meteorology and seismology, said Brian Haymore, senior systems engineer of the universitys Center for High Performance Computing. For example, a group of Utah seismologists use the stored information to take sound measurements of the ocean floor to find oil deposits. Biologists use stored DNA information to search family trees and isolate genes responsible for cancer and other diseases. Collaborators across the country can access the information.
"The key advantage is were able to attach things to servers via Ethernet," Haymore said.
According to 3Wares calculations, the companys Palisade 100, running side by side with a 500-GB Fibre Channel array, would save the user $37,000 in electricity in five years. "And our box only costs $20,000," said 3Ware CEO Beau Vrolyk.
IBMs 200i devices can store as much as 1.74 terabytes, but need up to four 7-foot racks. The boxes range in cost from $20,000 to $106,000.
Some of IBMs early sales have been to midsize businesses, banks, colleges and a medical center.
Today, it costs seven times as much to manage a SAN as to acquire and install it, The Enterprise Storage Groups Prigmore said, but iSCSI promises dramatic savings.
Customers "just plug in the blue Ethernet cable, plug the power cable to the wall, load the device driver off the PC and turn the thing on," 3Wares Vrolyk said.