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Can iSCSI crack the enterprise?

Ezine

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iSCSI storage systems are showing up in medium-sized businesses, but storage managers at large enterprise shops have been reluctant to embrace them. That's starting to change.


iSCSI storage is a huge hit with small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). They love the combination of simplicity, low cost and the functionality of iSCSI devices. But perhaps the biggest selling point is that SMBs don't have to learn the ins and outs of Fibre Channel (FC) due to their familiarity with the IP protocol and Ethernet hardware. But iSCSI implementations in the data centers of the largest enterprise businesses are rare. Why has this revolutionary technology had such a small impact in the enterprise?

The word "enterprise" is one of the most overused, yet rarely defined terms in IT, but it holds important connotations. Simply put, enterprise means big shops full of big data sets, big apps with big requirements, and lots of money to pay for high levels of reliability and performance. Enterprises adopted FC early, which could explain slower iSCSI acceptance. "We've got plenty of capacity in our Fibre Channel infrastructure, so why should I bring in something new?" asks a systems architect at a large insurance firm. Many large firms are notoriously skeptical about new technology and slow to endorse changes to their storage infrastructure.

Enterprises not enticed
Many of iSCSI's selling points just don't seem compelling to enterprise storage

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managers. While they have a wealth of experience with Ethernet and IP, large firms made their investment and got up to speed on FC years ago. They have so much data, and buy so much storage, that a lower price of entry vs. FC isn't a big deal. They're already working hard to reduce overall costs per gigabyte by introducing tiered storage and reducing the amount of retained data through data classification. The low cost of replication and mirroring features bundled with iSCSI arrays also loses its appeal if a business has already negotiated volume licenses on these features. The core enterprise data center just has too many other items on its to-do list to be implementing iSCSI.

This was first published in July 2007

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