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NetApp adds iSCSI, offers software as free download

Kevin Komiega

Everyone knows that Network Appliance has a knack for NAS, but now the Sunnyvale, Calif., firm has made a move around the iSCSI storage standard that could speed adoption of the technology and extend the protocol's reach into the Microsoft world.

NetApp said Tuesday that iSCSI represents a chance to accelerate the evolution of customer data centers from direct-attached to networked storage designs. In response to iSCSI becoming a ratified storage standard at the hands of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) last week, NetApp has said it will offer the iSCSI protocol for free to its F800 and FAS900 series customers.

An iSCSI protocol license is available now, at no charge to NetApp customers, on the company's Web site.

John Webster, senior analyst and founder of Data Mobility Group Inc., Nashua, N.H., said the NetApp iSCSI giveaway is an interesting twist.

"Here you have NetApp emulating Microsoft, in a way, by giving free iSCSI support for 800 and 900 series filers," he said. "Then you have Microsoft giving iSCSI support away for free in an upcoming Windows release.

"Microsoft and NetApp have not really been close friends, especially over Exchange certification issues."

Webster said NetApp can now say that, with iSCSI installed on a NetApp filer, it appears as a block storage device to an Exchange server, something Microsoft has "insisted on for years." He said that removes a roadblock for NetApp.

To accommodate iSCSI in its products, NetApp

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has hitched its wagon with Intel Corp. and will offer Intel's PRO 1000/T IP Storage Adapter.

NetApp's vice president of global alliances, Phil Williams, said existing customers will receive iSCSI for free.

"If they bought a filer with a subscription they can come to our update site and download the protocol, accept the license agreement, start creating LUNs and expose [the filer] via iSCSI," Williams said. "That's our way to get the protocol out there and use it in conjunction with all of our enterprise capabilities."

NetApp also beefed up its NearStore and SnapVault product lines Tuesday. Williams said the new NearStore R150 system now supports up to 24 terabytes (TB) of storage and the ability to take between 31 and 255 data snapshots for backup and recovery purposes. NetApp also added Fibre Channel connectivity to the NearStore R150. The new version of SnapVault now lets customers back up non-NetApp storage to NetApp filers.

The IETF completed work on the iSCSI specification, a protocol for transporting SCSI packets over TCP/IP, last week; the task force's action makes the protocol a standard.

Storage vendors that support iSCSI now have to make minor software adjustments to ensure that their drivers and their hardware and software products are compatible with the final version of the specification. With the final ratification complete, the Storage Networking Industry Association said the future of iSCSI now lies in customer deployments and market adoption.

The SNIA's IP storage forum has made some bold predictions on the future of the technology. In a December article for SearchStorage.com, the group said that iSCSI storage products will flood the market in early 2003, and that iSCSI storage area network (SAN) deployments will follow, along with further widespread iSCSI adoption during the second half of the year.

SNIA predicted that almost every operating system will have support for iSCSI by the end of 2003 and that most will actually have it by the end of June 2003. Let us know what you think about the story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

iSCSI specs complete, market waits for Microsoft offering

HDS, NetApp forge alliance on NAS, SAN systems

NetApp launches first-of-its-kind SAN/NAS hybrid

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