Native iSCSI and the commoditization of Enterprise storage

Summary:For years, many experts have been declaring iSCSIthe next storage revolution, but has it really lived up to the hype? Well,yes and no.

For years, many experts have been declaring iSCSIthe next storage revolution, but has it really lived up to the hype? Well,yes and no. ISCSI is still a relatively new technology and it still has a smallmarketshare in the Enterprise SAN (Storage Area Network) arena. But this isnow about to change with the proliferation of inexpensive "Native iSCSI"storage servers.

Two years ago, your only option was to use an iSCSI router to translate and encapsulate the fibre channel protocol into iSCSI protocol, but that left people wondering just what that was going to buy them. You still had to use expensive fibre channel storage arrays, and the storage router itself wasn't cheap either. Sure, you had a little more flexibility in the location of your servers withrespect to your fibre channel SAN because of the ability to route Fibre Channelover IP, but the benefits were hardly compelling and the market responded accordingly.

Today, everything has changed with the proliferation of iSCSI target softwareavailable to everything from Linux to Windows to iSCSI storage appliances. Thesedevices are what's commonly referred to as "Native iSCSI Servers" because you get to stay on IPend to end.

Being able to use IP means you get to use commodity Ethernet. Consider this: A Cisco 3750G with 28 gigabit Ethernet ports runs about $4,300 street price, whilean entry level Brocade 3250 8-port, 2-gigabit fibre channel switch costs about$4,700 street price. Even more shocking is the fact that you can now find unmanaged8-port gigabit switches for around $100! While it's true that I'm comparinga 1 gigabit device to a 2 gigabit device, the reality is that you will nevercome close to bursting up to even 3/4 of a gigabit let alone 2 gigabitsin the real world. Couple this with inexpensive iSCSI target software that sellsfor a few hundred dollars and put it on a 4U server with 2 terabytes of 10000RPM Ultra320 SCSI storage for about $7,000 total and you can see why this wouldgive any storage executive nightmares. Conventional wisdom says you can't havethis kind of capability for less than $50,000, but knowledge and economy ofscale is truly the consumer's best friend.

Topics: Networking


George Ou, a former ZDNet blogger, is an IT consultant specializing in Servers, Microsoft, Cisco, Switches, Routers, Firewalls, IDS, VPN, Wireless LAN, Security, and IT infrastructure and architecture.

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