Alacritech, Nishan, HDS hurdle iSCSI speed bumps

A trio of storage companies says that iSCSI is here--now. And, they've got test results to prove it.

A trio of storage vendors has released test results which they say disprove the perception that iSCSI is not ready for prime time.

San Jose, Calif.-based Alacritech Inc., Nishan Systems Inc., and Hitachi Data Systems Ltd. (HDS), Santa Clara, Calif., announced that they have achieved wire-speed iSCSI throughput on a single Gigabit Ethernet connection.

So why does this matter? Most industry predictions estimate that high-speed iSCSI products will be released by the end of 2002. Alacritech, Nishan, and HDS claim that they have beat that timetable by a year, and are shipping full wire-speed iSCSI products in SAN configurations today.

"This is the first time we've seen a viable alternative to Fibre Channel," said Randy Fardal, vice presidents of marketing for Nishan Systems. "There really aren't any barriers left to the adoption of iSCSI," said Fardal.

Illuminata Inc., analyst and IT advisor John Webster said past iSCSI benchmarking tests were designed to prove the concept of IP SANs, while this latest test brings the technology closer to real world computer processor utilization rates.

"We're now up to wire-speed, meaning that in real world situations we're going to see acceptable performance," said Webster.

A server with an Alacritech Gigabit Ethernet Server and Storage Accelerator was connected to a Nishan IP Storage switch via a single Gigabit Ethernet link and the Nishan switch was then connected to a Hitachi Freedom Storage system. According to the companies, the configuration boosted the sustained rate of iSCSI data at over 219MB/sec with less than 8% CPU utilization, while the Nishan IP Storage switch provided wire-speed conversion from iSCSI to the Fibre Channel storage system.

The one caveat to this performance boost is that Nishan, HDS and Alacritech used version 0.8 of the iSCSI specification. Once the specification is ratified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) it will include the IP security Protocol (IPSEC), a security protocol in the network layer developed to provide cryptographic security services for IP, according to the IETF.

"IP Sec processing will require another significant amount of processing in the application host. If that's the case the iSCSI community may end up falling back on an earlier version of the specification.

But Webster said what these companies have put forth is very close to what the final product of iSCSI will be once the specification is published .

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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