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Midsized organizations were early adopters of iSCSI because of its low cost and easy implementation. Previously, 1Gb/sec was about as fast as IP networks ran, but that didn't matter. "Performance

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wasn't a concern. The big benefit was cost," says Steve Meckling, network services administrator at Shiloh Industries Inc., a manufacturer of auto-industry components in Valley City, OH.

iSCSI has been steadily gaining momentum. According to a recent report from Framingham, MA-based research firm IDC, the iSCSI protocol is expected to capture more than 10% of storage systems revenue and an even greater percentage of capacity by 2008. In the early days of storage networking, large enterprises viewed iSCSI SANs as "training wheels" that would someday grow into a Fibre Channel (FC) SAN for industrial-strength performance. FC has steadily progressed from 2Gb/sec to 4Gb/sec. But IP/Ethernet recently leapfrogged FC in the performance race with 10Gb/sec Ethernet over copper. At 10Gb/sec, iSCSI offers a faster pipe than FC, and will continue to hold that edge even when FC gets to 8Gb/sec in a couple of years.

However, iSCSI was never just about performance. "The elevator pitch for an iSCSI SAN is that it saves money by using Ethernet; but what users really like are the features they get automatically with iSCSI SANs--load balancing, snapshots and more," says Stephen Foskett, director of strategy services at GlassHouse Technologies Inc., Framingham, MA. "iSCSI SAN is definitely happening."

For the enterprise, the issue now is coexistence. "Places with FC SANs are installing iSCSI SANs, too. They want alternatives. iSCSI won't replace FC; rather, it lets large companies make storage decisions based on business needs," says Mike Karp, senior analyst, Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, CO. "Almost every storage product vendor is supporting iSCSI these days," he adds. Even enterprise storage vendors like EMC Corp. and IBM Corp. have embraced iSCSI.

In terms of cost, iSCSI SANs still have the edge over FC. For example, Shiloh Industries currently operates 17TB of storage using four EqualLogic Inc. iSCSI SANs, which cost approximately $40,000 each.

This was first published in December 2006

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