DISKLESS SERVER AFICIONADOS, whether they're blade server users or VMware shops, have long had the ability to do remote boot from Fibre Channel SANs. But if you were running Windows off an iSCSI SAN, your options were limited to buying an expensive, space-consuming iSCSI host bus adapter or running specialized iSCSI software initiators that Microsoft didn't support.
This month, the Redmond, WA, giant announced that it will supply select partners with specialized code that allows them to toggle the boot order, making a boot from iSCSI SANs possible and supported. Two of Microsoft's partners are IBM and emBoot, with its WinBoot/i iSCSI boot-from-SAN software initiator.
Blade server vendors, in particular, have been strong advocates for software-based remote boot from an IP SAN, says Claude Lorensen, Microsoft's group product manager for storage. "They'd like to be able to get rid of disks to reduce heat and power consumption, and use the NICs [network interface cards] they already have."
Lorensen emphasizes that Microsoft's standard iSCSI software initiator doesn't in and of itself support remote boot from a SAN. For that capability, users must turn to their hardware vendors or specialized partners. "This is a very direct way for users to know what is and isn't supported," he says.