ISCSI for Unix on the way

Microsoft isn't the only company peddling iSCSI support -- Unix vendors are also making moves in this direction.

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This article first appeared in "Storage" magazine in the August issue. For more articles of this type, please visit www.storagemagazine.com.

Microsoft isn't the only operating system vendor that will support iSCSI -- Unix vendors are also getting into the act. The Redmond giant was the first operating system vendor to ship an iSCSI initiator, but recently Novell and some Linux distributions include iSCSI support, and many others are on the way.

That's good, because according to John Joseph, vice president of marketing at Nashua, N.H.-based iSCSI storage vendor EqualLogic Inc., approximately 40% of its 100-plus customers connect its PeerStorage array to non-Windows platforms, including Solaris, Linux, Novell, as well as AIX and HP-UX.

So far, most iSCSI initiators outside of Microsoft's have been developed by third parties such as Cisco, which makes the SN5400 family of iSCSI-to-Fibre Channel routers, resold by Hewlett-Packard Co. as the HP StorageWorks IP Storage Router 2122. Cisco, however, is "hoping other vendors take Microsoft's example, which will get us out of the iSCSI driver business for good," a company spokesperson said.

IBM, for one, plans to release iSCSI initiator code for its AIX and Linux platforms "soon," said Clod Barrera, director of storage strategy in IBM's systems and technology group. Believe it or not, Barrera said that iSCSI for OS/400 and zOS are even possibilities, but "don't hold your breath." Sun Microsystems, too, will release iSCSI with Solaris 10, which is expected this calendar year, according to vice president and CTO Balint Fleischer, and HP promises to announce something in the coming months.

Linux, meanwhile, is a whole other ball of wax. A quick search on sourceforge.net, the Linux developers' site, reveals a long list of iSCSI projects, and numerous third parties also developing iSCSI code.

Chris Short, vice president of sales at iSCSI software developer PyX Technologies, has little doubt that an initiator will eventually find its way into Linux, but how robust it will be is a different story. "There will be a low-level generic initiator out there that will be fine for just about anybody." That said, simplistic iSCSI initiators can't support multiple failures, multiple subnets or tagged command queuing "and still keep on going," he added.

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