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Battle brews between iSCSI and FC

Mark Lewis
If you are a cost-conscious storage manager, you are probably looking into the merits of iSCSI. With competition

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from vendors heating up, maybe it's time to look into the low-cost alternative networking option to Fibre Channel (FC).

We sat down with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) analyst Brian Garrett to discuss the battle brewing between FC and iSCSI. This SearchStorge.com chat is a precursor to Brian's talk on the same subject at the Storage Decisions conference in Chicago, May 16-18.

Is there really a war between FC and iSCSI?

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Brian Garrett: In general, FC and iSCSI aren't competing for the same footprint. ISCSI is gaining the most traction in entry-level SANs outside the reach of FC wiring. FC continues to rule in the data center.

Simple, low-cost, SAN-in-a-box FC solutions are beginning to compete with iSCSI at the low end of the market. ISCSI over 10-Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) could pose a challenge in the future at the high end. So I guess I wouldn't characterize FC vs. iSCSI as actively being at war with one another -- instead it's more of a cold war that has the potential to heat up in the next couple years.

Where do you see competition between the two in the data center?

Garrett: Around the edges of the data center -- however, I expect to see some competition, especially for e-mail and departmental databases, especially when 10 GigE iSCSI becomes affordable. Storage managers are very cautious, and because FC in the core of the data center is viable and reliable, I believe it'll be years before we see FC and iSCSI compete in the core of the data center.

Is iSCSI getting sturdy enough to handle the mission critical applications?

Garrett: Yes, in my opinion it is. I've seen a lot of progress here lately from startups. In my opinion, it's been proven that a scalable, reliable and easy-to-use storage system that happens to connect to servers using iSCSI can be combined with enterprise-class reliability, features clustering, booting from a SAN and multipathing to create a reliable platform for mission critical applications.

Is performance a dated argument then?

Garrett: Not at all. Perception is reality. This perception is the same as most end users I speak with. My goal during my talk at Storage Decisions is to address one such perception that does not reflect reality -- that iSCSI performance is significantly poorer than FC. [Also iSCSI] is not suitable for I/O intensive, response time sensitive application like e-mail and databases. I'll draw from my experience doing ESG Lab hands-on testing of iSCSI storage systems and apples-to-apples comparisons of iSCSI vs. FC performance.

To register for the Storage Decisions conference or check out the full agenda, go to StorageDecisions.com. Storage Decisions is a free conference for qualified attendees.


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