iSCSI could solve storage area network issues: NetApp

Network Appliance says an emerging protocol will help companies big and small migrate to storage area networks, or SANs.

NetApp Canada’s general manager, Jeff Goldstein, says Internet small computer system interface (iSCSI) could

be the key to moving network storage down the enterprise food chain.

“”Where we believe iSCSI will fit best first is in those departments where they need block-level access but can’t afford or don’t have the expertise to implement a SAN,”” he says. “”This might be a large, remote branch or a branch plant operation where they need blocks, but they really don’t want to get into the expense and investment of a SAN.””

SANs connect a group of servers to a central disk system or a redundant array of independent disks. Fibre Channel is the most popular connective wiring while SCSI is the hardware interface of choice.

Goldstein says in theory iSCSI should put and end to the SAN versus network attached storage (NAS) debate, but people tend to make these kinds of decisions based on bias or where they sit in the lifecycle of their present hardware.

“”You might have previous investment. You might be big ethernet shop — you have ethernet everywhere — or likewise you might be a Brocade shop and want to use your Brocade investment, in which case you use SAN,”” Goldstein says.

But iSCSI is a relatively new protocol and unproven, says IDC Canada Ltd. analyst Alan Freedman. “”How successful it can be is different from how successful it is right now . . . (but) there is some upside to it — definitely the familiarity with the IP networking versus Fibre Channel.””

Freedman agrees that initial implementations will probably be more suited to small and medium businesses as opposed to the Fibre Channel, which tends to go to more large enterprises. Fibre Channel is typically more expensive and requires more administration.

Montreal-based reseller MasStor Technologies is also hesitant to form an opinion on the iSCSI until its viability with customers can be established.

“”With iSCSI, if you understand storage you can work with it, but it’s not the most efficient way to deal with storage,”” says vice-president Michel Rail. “”Because there’s a networking layer, there’s still routing that has to take place. You can achieve much better performance on Fibre Channel than you can with iSCSI working on any speed.””

For now his attitude is: “”kick it around in the lab, and then we’ll know.””

In conjunction with the launch of its iSCSI support, NetApp also released the NearStore R150 and SnapVault. The R150 is a nearline storage device can hold up to 24 terabytes (double the R100’s 12 terabytes) for about $300,000 or as Goldstein says about (US)$0.01 per megabyte. The devices are available today

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