Definition

iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface)

iSCSI is Internet SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), an Internet Protocol (IP)-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities, developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). By carrying SCSI commands over IP networks, iSCSI is used to facilitate data transfers over intranets and to manage storage over long distances. The iSCSI protocol is among the key technologies expected to help bring about rapid development of the storage area network (SAN) market, by increasing the capabilities and performance of storage data transmission. Because of the ubiquity of IP networks, iSCSI can be used to transmit data over local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), or the Internet and can enable location-independent data storage and retrieval.

How iSCSI works:

When an end user or application sends a request, the operating system generates the appropriate SCSI commands and data request, which then go through encapsulation and, if necessary, encryption procedures. A packet header is added before the resulting IP packets are transmitted over an Ethernet connection. When a packet is received, it is decrypted (if it was encrypted before transmission), and disassembled, separating the SCSI commands and request. The SCSI commands are sent on to the SCSI controller, and from there to the SCSI storage device. Because iSCSI is bi-directional, the protocol can also be used to return data in response to the original request.

iSCSI is one of two main approaches to storage data transmission over IP networks; the other method, Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP), translates Fibre Channel control codes and data into IP packets for transmission between geographically distant Fibre Channel SANs. FCIP (also known as Fibre Channel tunnelingor storage tunneling) can only be used in conjunction with Fibre Channel technology; in comparison, iSCSI can run over existing Ethernet networks. A number of vendors, including Cisco, IBM, and Nishan have introduced iSCSI-based products (such as switches and routers).

This was last updated in May 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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