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iSCSI Strikes Back

With all the talk about FCoE and NFS it seems that iSCSI has become the odd man out. All reports indicate that Dell continues to do well with the EqualLogic acquisition but what Hewlett-Packard is doing with its LeftHand Networks purchase remains unclear. Don't count iSCSI out yet, though -- companies are planning iSCSI storage solutions aimed r
With all the talk about FCoE and NFS it seems that iSCSI has become the odd man out. All reports indicate that Dell continues to do well with the EqualLogic acquisition but what Hewlett-Packard is doing with its LeftHand Networks purchase remains unclear. Don't count iSCSI out yet, though -- companies are planning iSCSI storage solutions aimed right at the SME market.There will be a few companies that add iSCSI intelligence to their existing block technology as NexSan has chosen to do by adding IP to its protocol capabilities and others that will follow the NetApp approach of adding iSCSI to the existing NAS technology leveraging its already existing investment in the IP protocol. In addition, companies like DataCore, HP via LeftHand Networks and FalconStor are creating virtual storage appliances that can dramatically reduce the cost of shared storage by eliminating the need for a separate storage platform all together. One of the key drivers of iSCSI will be the decreasing need for specialized cards. iSCSI initiators come in two flavors typically; software-based drivers often provided by the OS manufacturer and hardware-based iSCSI cards. In the past the concern about the software initiator is the impact on overall server performance during times of busy storage use. One of the key capabilities of iSCSI cards is their ability to offload processing the IP protocol from the main CPU. As processing power continues to increase, looking for ways to offload processing responsibilities from the main CPU becomes less of an issue. While a software-initiated iSCSI session may require more CPU cycles, it's likely that you have extra cycles to burn.

If iSCSI cards can be eliminated from the equation this will keep the cost of implementing iSCSI down and make it an attractive option, especially in the midmarket data center. There is still the debate of iSCSI vs. NFS for VMware or Citrix deployments, and then when and where does Fibre Channel become a more logical choice, and of course, lastly, where does FCoE fit into all of this? More on that in an upcoming entry.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.