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Where are storage networks headed?

What would be the future of storage vendors (EMC, HDS, HP, etc.) with FC SAN-based storage coupled with a NAS head vs. a vendor (NetApp) that provides a unified storage for both FC and IP SAN? Would iSCSI be a better choice over FC and what challenges would be involved?

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Well, asking about the future of a storage vendor is a very general and broad question. Vendors offering NAS solutions that are basically NAS controllers with SAN-attached storage is popular now and we have offerings from the major storage vendors. These provide what is termed NAS gateways for providing both block and file access where appropriate. The NetApp solution you referred to does both block and file access but may not use a separate disk storage system. There are trade-offs both ways and differences in cost, etc. There are enough differences to allow vendors to highlight specific characteristics when proposing products to customers.

Fibre Channel is the dominant storage network and has been widely deployed in the enterprise data center space. There are many management tools now that weren't there even a year ago so there has been a big change in the barriers to deployment. iSCSI is still new and probably will be more oriented toward the SMB (small to mid-size business) space that has not already deployed a SAN. There will be the same issues with management and deployment that we've seen before and will take some time to gain traction. Meanwhile, NAS with TCP/IP accelerators has greatly improved in performance and is being deployed more in the SMB space as an IP-based solution. That's the real competition for iSCSI.

Randy Kerns
Evaluator Group, Inc.

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This was first published in January 2003

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