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Can iSCSI crack the enterprise?

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TheInfoPro Inc., a New York City-based market analysis firm, has been tracking the adoption of IP SAN technologies in the Fortune 1000 market for years. Its data shows that IP SANs make up a small but growing 4% to 6% of Fortune 1000 storage purchases, with usage focused on file servers and Microsoft SQL databases. iSCSI is present at 13% of Fortune 1000 shops, or approximately half as common as it is at smaller firms, says TheInfoPro. Clearly, a combination of these factors is slowing iSCSI's success in the enterprise.

iSCSI's quiet momentum
iSCSI is more widely used in branch or remote offices distant from the enterprise's main data center. "I'm seeing iSCSI adoption in the enterprise in Tier-2, Tier-3 and nearline/offline storage situations, as well as in workgroup, departmental, and remote office or satellite spaces," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at the StorageIO Group. Discussions with iSCSI users mirrored this observation, with many big-name firms buying IP SAN gear for far-flung locations.

iSCSI is gaining ground where local admins aren't plugged into corporate budgets and standards, in places like branch offices and autonomous business units. Even though enterprise storage architects may not be interested in implementing iSCSI, they may be surprised to find it in parts of the organization outside of their control.

The environment managed by Chuck Thompson, manager of information technology and facilities for Fortis Prime

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Fund Solutions (Cayman) Ltd. in the Cayman Islands, is typical of this trend. The Cayman branch of Fortis plays a critical role in accounting funds to shareholders, and requires flexible, high-performance storage to support this app. Yet the firm was put off by the large cash outlay required to procure an FC storage infrastructure. "It would have cost a quarter of a million dollars just to get our foot in the door," says Thompson. "When we looked at storage products in 2004, Fibre Channel alternatives were priced near $250,000, but we got similar functionality with our EqualLogic [Inc.] iSCSI system for less than a quarter of that. Even after implementing replication and expanding the system four times we still haven't spent that much."

This was first published in July 2007

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