LSI moves to iSCSI arrays

All of LSI's products will support iSCSI connectivity, but its higher end arrays will have to wait for native support.

LSI Corp. is finally supporting iSCSI connectivity on all of its disk arrays, though native support is still only available in its low-end Simplicity product line.

LSI's first native iSCSI system is its entry level 1532 array, which is also being rebranded by IBM as the DS3300. The DS3300 began shipping on Sept. 7. With Fibre Channel and SAS disks on the back end, the 1532 is nearly identical to the 1932 (IBM's DS3400), except for the iSCSI connectivity.

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The 1532 is also the second enterprise disk array to announced support for SAS/SATA intermix. Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) announced that its new FAS2000 products that it gets through an OEM deal with Dot Hill Systems Corp. will also support the feature.

The problem with SAS/SATA intermix is SATA has a far lower tolerance for shock and rotational vibration than SAS drives, and putting them too close together in a densely packed array can cause SATA drives to fail at a higher rate. According to LSI product marketing manager Rip Wilson, the 1532 avoids this problem with small shock absorbers in each disk container.

LSI's higher end SANtricity products, which IBM sells as its midrange DS4000 series, will support connectivity through a meet-in-the-channel qualification of its systems with QLogic Corp.'s iSCSI storage area network (SAN) routers. The routers must be managed separately from the SANtricity arrays, and a 512-port device costs $10,000.

"Basically, they're making an interoperability announcement," said analyst John Webster, principal IT advisor with Illuminata Inc. "OK, so they've announced you can put a QLogic router in front of one of their boxes. Their OEMs could have done the same thing."

LSI's main OEM partner IBM already has iSCSI midrange systems that it resells through its partnership with NetApp. And NetApp systems offer Fibre Channel and iSCSI native connectivity along with block- and file-level access in the same box.

LSI argues that for now, the router is more scalable than putting native iSCSI ports on the box, particularly for larger customers. Each 512-port router can be stacked and clustered with others to expand the port count.

LSI director of product management Steve Gardner points out that the router gives existing customers iSCSI connectivity without having to buy new systems.

"The router is not just for new customers," Gardner wrote in an email to SearchStorage.com. "There are many thousands of SANtricity systems installed in the field already, so the router is also designed to help these customers get the most out of the iSCSI interface."

All the major Fibre Channel SAN vendors offer at least iSCI connectivity, if not dedicated iSCSI systems. According to market research firm IDC, the iSCSI SAN grew 57.2% to $191 million from the second quarter of 2006 through the second quarter of this year.

So it makes sense that LSI officials say native iSCSI is on the roadmap, but Webster wonders how much demand LSI sees in its midrange sweet spot. "Obviously, they're seeing some since they feel they need some play in the iSCSI space," he said. "But they must have come to the conclusion that it's not a big enough market yet among higher end customers to warrant completely rejiggering the design of their box."

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