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Can iSCSI crack the enterprise?

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Enterprise iSCSI is appearing in other unexpected places, like backup devices and WANs. Many virtual tape library vendors use iSCSI because the majority of backup systems use Ethernet and IP for connectivity. Many iSCSI arrays are being purchased as storage targets for backup-to-disk implementations. iSCSI is also leveraged as a connectivity mechanism for data replication over IP networks, where protocol converters would previously have been required.

In these cases, iSCSI acceptance is helped by the lack of preexisting enterprise architecture standards, the isolation of the solutions and the predictability of purchasing. Rather than competing for the time of busy storage admins, iSCSI reduces the workload of staff who are less savvy with FC. Instead of displacing FC storage, iSCSI in these enterprise apps is enabling new features outside the traditional realm of disk capacity.

Benefits beyond cost savings

Although cost is the universal justification for the move to iSCSI, many enterprise users are surprised by the other benefits they get.

Chris Burgess, infrastructure architect at construction giant Skanska UK Ltd., justified his firm's iSCSI purchase for cost reasons but chooses to stay with it due to its flexibility and features. Skanska UK needed high-performance storage for its enterprise accounting system

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and saw this as an opportunity to step up from DAS to a "storage layer." The firm decided to use clustered Sanrad V-Switch 3000 iSCSI routers in front of low-end Hewlett-Packard Co. StorageWorks 1000 Modular Smart Array (MSA1000) and Nexsan Technologies Inc. ATABeast storage arrays, rather than purchasing a more expensive integrated Fibre Channel (FC) solution. The Sanrads include the flexible provisioning and replication features Skanska UK needed at a fraction of the cost of licensing these features on a high-end storage array.

Skanska UK has been moving more and more applications to this iSCSI-fronted FC infrastructure and it remains pleased with the performance and flexibility. "The great thing about iSCSI is that you can connect any server to the back-end storage without even rebooting your Windows servers," says Skanska senior technical specialist Mark Ireland.

This was first published in July 2007

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