iSCSI Gains Foothold in Data Center

Users cite cost, ease-of-use benefits

EMC Corp. today will unveil new Internet SCSI versions of its midrange and low-end arrays, the latest in a series of industry moves that experts say will significantly boost corporate adoption of the LAN-based technology.

Storage-area networks (SAN) built on Ethernet are gaining popularity because they offer significant cost savings and reduced network complexity compared with the more widely installed Fibre Channel technologies. At the same time, the number of top-tier vendors offering iSCSI products continues to grow, analysts said.

EMC will be unveiling iSCSI-enabled versions of its low-end Clariion AX100 and midrange Clariion CX300 and CX500 arrays. The systems are priced from $6,000 and offer 3TB to 35TB capacity.

EMC's high-end Symmetrix DMX and network-attached storage (NAS) products were iSCSI-enabled in 2003.

Several users of iSCSI arrays from other vendors said the technology is meeting their cost and performance expectations.

Scott Blackstone, senior network administrator at Wurld Media Inc. in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., rolled out a 40TB, $500,000 iSCSI SAN from EqualLogic Inc. in Nashua, N.H., last fall.

Blackstone said he chose iSCSI over Fibre Channel because deployment was much faster and "much more comfortable. We already have a staff of people that are very good network engineers and have that [LAN] skill set already in place."

EMC's CX300 midrange array
EMC's CX300 midrange array
Wurld Media's iSCSI SAN supports 25 Hewlett-Packard Co. servers and acts as a storage repository for serving up MP3 audio files, movies and television shows to companies such as Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. The SAN is also used to store transactional data from sales operations.

"I don't think we really had any serious challenges in setting it up," Blackstone said.

There are already a half-dozen small iSCSI start-up vendors, and large storage vendors are increasingly taking the plunge.

Last September, for example, IBM released the TotalStorage DS300, an entry-level disk server with iSCSI connectivity. In 2003, Network Appliance Inc. was the first major vendor to bring out a range of iSCSI products based on its NAS line.

Chris Hughes, director of IT at regional airline Independence Air Inc. in Dulles, Va., installed a small 1.5TB iSCSI SAN based on NetApp's FAS960 NAS array last March. The rollout took a week and a half, and so far the system has worked flawlessly, he said.

Hughes contended that any additional speed gained from a Fibre Channel network using 2Gbit/sec. technology instead of Gigabit Ethernet would be pointless if the end user couldn't see it.

Jared Gregersen, a network administrator for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, recently purchased two 8TB iSCSI SANs from LeftHand Networks Inc. in Boulder, Colo., to support casinos and a 500-person municipal government. Gregersen already uses a midrange Fibre Channel SAN based on a 3TB EMC Clariion CX600 array.

"It's just easy for new computer technicians to learn," he said. "It's just more of a hassle to change [configurations] on the EMC array than on the new IP SAN."


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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