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iSCSI spec ready to go, products to follow

Kevin Komiega

The Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) specification, long heralded as the technology that will bring economical, manageable storage networks to the masses, is now complete.

The Storage Networking Industry Association announced Wednesday that it has completed work on the iSCSI specification and has passed it along to be ratified, bringing the emerging technology into the mainstream.

According to Adaptec Inc.'s Bill Lynn, co-chairman of the SNIA's IP Storage Forum, the iSCSI specification has completed "last call" within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

The phrase "last call" means that iSCSI has no technical issues pending against it. Lynn said the specification was submitted to the IETF's general membership for review and will now be forwarded for ratification.

"All of the technical pieces of the specification are complete. Everybody can start putting products into the marketplace," Lynn said.

One of the major technical issues that kept iSCSI out of the market for so long was that of security. Lynn said that the specification does address IP security.

He added that there will be many vendors manufacturing iSCSI hardware that is not compliant with the specification.

"There are going to be several implementations out there without the security built in. To be 100% compliant, they're going to have to include it," Lynn said.

The SNIA defines iSCSI as a protocol that maps the SCSI remote

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procedure invocation model on top of the Internet's Transport Control Protocol (TCP) to produce a transport mechanism for storage over Ethernet. In other words, iSCSI encapsulates SCSI commands into TCP packets, which enables the transport of I/O block data over IP networks. Because iSCSI allows for data storage networks to be transmitted on Ethernet networks, the management of networked storage can be handled without having to learn a new technology such as Fibre Channel.

It has long been predicted by industry pundits that the advent of iSCSI will bring about rapid development of the SAN market, by bringing SAN technologies to small and medium sized businesses.

Robert Gray, research director of worldwide storage systems at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said that there is a whole segment of users who are really looking forward to adding another application to their Ethernet networks. These are conservative spenders who saw moving into Fibre Channel as too rich for their blood and too time consuming for their personnel.

"These are people who buy in to the advantage of storage consolidation and see that Fibre Channel has been very difficult and expensive. They want the benefits of it without the overhead costs that come with it," Gray said.

Gray added that these types of users will not be dissuaded if the first generation of iSCSI products has its problems.

"The benefits of single infrastructure management tools are so huge for these people that it doesn't matter if there are compatibility issues or the performance is half that of Fibre Channel," Gray said. "It's about comfort and what will work."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

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