Can iSCSI crack the enterprise?


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Massive scalability
Although it's rare for iSCSI to replace FC in critical storage apps, it sometimes happens. Richard Smith of Weinman GeoScience Inc., a consulting services group to the oil and gas industry in Dallas and Houston, says he's retiring an FC infrastructure in favor of an all-iSCSI SAN based on EqualLogic hardware. "Due to budget constraints, we tried to make do with lower end NAS and DAS storage in the past," says Smith. "But we've been so happy with the performance and availability of our iSCSI storage that we're moving everything to it."

This is no tiny SAN. Weinman GeoScience supports a cluster of 250 AMD dual-core Linux nodes connected to 100TB of raw iSCSI storage on 15 arrays. The iSCSI storage is served up by four Sun Solaris NFS servers. This one app makes up 60% of Weinman GeoScience's business of processing seismic data.

This iSCSI SAN was "very easy to scale, and reliability and performance has been excellent," says Smith. "It had a low introductory price point, but it wasn't the cheapest solution in town." The performance of the firm's EqualLogic system RAID 50 storage has been "remarkable, consistently reaching 100 [megabytes] to 150 megabytes per second from each of our four groups of three or four arrays," says Smith. He looks forward to increasing performance with 10GbE.

iSCSI resistance
Even at firms where interest in iSCSI is high, resistance often comes from outside the storage group.

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The InfoPro's Stevenson found this to be common. "Pushback from network administrators has been raised at almost three-quarters of Fortune 1000 sites," he says. "They're concerned about management toolsets for troubleshooting and visibility, are unfamiliar with storage traffic and want to wait for 10GbE.

"The vocabulary of network and storage tools is entirely different, making it difficult to map the two domains," continues Stevenson. He says users have had difficulty adapting network management tools to monitor iSCSI traffic, and storage tools are indecipherable to network admins. This is a historical issue that arises because storage and networks were invented by different people at different times. Even though the technologies have proven compatible, the language hasn't.

This was first published in July 2007

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