As it had promised, Microsoft on Wednesday said it will add support in Windows for the recently approved iSCSI storage standard, which allows storage networks to be built using existing Ethernet networks.
Microsoft said it will offer a free download in June that will provide an iSCSI driver for customers using Windows 2000 (client and server versions), Windows XP and the forthcoming Windows Server 2003 operating systems. Microsoft had pledged to offer such an upgrade once the iSCSI standard got formal approval, which it did last month.
Adding support for iSCSI is part of Microsoft's effort to increase the use of Windows in the storage world. In January, the company announced a partnership with Hewlett-Packard to expand the marketing for Windows-based storage products.
Gartner analyst James Opfer was quoted in a Microsoft press release as saying that the inclusion of support in Windows should help spur adoption of iSCSI products.
"Operating system support for the iSCSI specification will facilitate deployment of interoperable storage products," Opfer said. "These products will meet the needs of customers for whom connectivity and familiarity with IP are of paramount importance."
By 2006, Gartner projects, iSCSI will connect nearly 1.5 million servers to storage area networks (SANs) - more than rival technologies, such as the current leader, Fibre Channel.
More than 50 companies have been participating in a beta, or test, programme with Microsoft around iSCSI support.
Microsoft said it is encouraging software and hardware makers as well as customers to use an updated test version - beta 2 - of its iSCSI support once it is made broadly available later this month.