iSCSI: Learn it or be left behind


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The iSCSI to-do list
ESG data and impending market trends reveal that iSCSI will play a role in your storage infrastructure in the not-too-distant future. It's time for storage professionals to wake up and anticipate this inevitable event or get steamrolled in the process. To accomplish this, smart storage executives will:

  • Go to school. Storage pros who are used to channel protocols like ESCON, FICON and FC should improve their networking chops around IP, Ethernet and the seven-layer OSI model. Fortunately, there are tons of experts on IP networking and Ethernet, and no shortage of books, seminars and training classes to choose from. One way to build some basic know-how is to attend a networking trade show such as Interop. A few training sessions and a stroll through the exhibit hall are a good way to start learning what you need to know.

  • Poke around your own IT department. Is your organization moving to IPv6? Are the networking folks planning a major overhaul of the network backbone? What about your server platforms? Are there any big Windows or Linux implementations coming? Storage professionals will likely know about decisions like these over a six- to 12-month timeframe, but what about the longer term? By mapping your strategic enterprise IT planning, the storage team can pinpoint when iSCSI will be a more favorable alternative and plan its own path accordingly.

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  • Check out vendor roadmaps. Many storage vendors currently support iSCSI, but what are their plans for the technology two to three years down the road? Will today's FC systems be upgradeable or will they need to be replaced? The only way to find out is to bring in your strategic vendors for an in-depth session. Make sure you provide some ground rules; you're on a fact-finding mission, so the session shouldn't be considered a sales call. If your organization is big enough, make sure your storage vendor involves some of its company heavyweights (CTO or VP of technology strategy).

The bottom line
While Internet-era predictions about iSCSI were on target, they were perhaps a little too aggressive--but all tech predictions were pretty aggressive back then. That said, iSCSI has crossed the proverbial chasm and is in the process of gaining full enterprise stature. Savvy users will be ready for this transition so they can take advantage of iSCSI sooner rather than later. It's best to prepare now, before system and networking teams use iSCSI as a power play to gain ownership of the storage tier.

This was first published in March 2007

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