Microsoft Corp. has made its move in IP storage by bringing iSCSI support into its operating systems, giving a huge boost to the networking protocol.
The Redmond, Wash., software giant announced it will provide support for the iSCSI standard in Windows client and server environments in June. Microsoft said its iSCSI software driver will be available as a free download for the Microsoft Windows 2000 client and server versions, as well as the Windows XP client and the upcoming Windows Server 2003 product line.
In a press release Wednesday, Zane Adam, director of product development and marketing for the enterprise storage division at Microsoft, said the move signals the company's continued focus on making Windows a stronger platform for storage. Adam said Microsoft and its partners are working to make enterprise storage operations more accessible to a broader spectrum of customers.
Microsoft could be the great facilitator in terms of iSCSI adoption. More than 60 software and hardware vendors are in the planning stages or are developing Windows-based applications and storage hardware products for iSCSI.
Microsoft has created a certification program to make sure hardware vendors certify their Windows-targeted iSCSI hardware components with Microsoft's version of the iSCSI standard, which, according to John Webster, founder and senior analyst at Data Mobility Group Inc., Nashua, N.H., is the more important piece of the puzzle.
The fact that Microsoft is certifying hardware vendors as iSCSI-compatible, he said, takes away any worry or concern for the end user.
"It removes a barrier, which isn't a big barrier to begin with, but nonetheless," Webster said. "This will wind up being seen as an inflection point in the history of iSCSI."
Webster said the advent of Microsoft's iSCSI support in June will be a big month in terms of propagating the protocol.
"Once it starts showing up everywhere, people are going to say, 'we have this so we might as well experiment with it,'" Webster said. "It's another step forward in the iSCSI direction. Microsoft is saying we're going to propagate and we're going to certify. That's a much stronger statement than just offering the protocol for free."
Microsoft said the qualification process will begin in June with the availability of iSCSI support.
Microsoft's iSCSI driver download will include support for data encryption, including Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), Internet Storage Name Service for both server and client, management via Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and an architecture that aggregates the different hardware initiators into a common framework.
The iSCSI specification finished its long journey last February when the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) ratified the protocol, which transports SCSI packets over TCP/IP.
The Storage Networking Industry Association'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 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. The way vendors are rolling out support, they could be right, according to experts. 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 NetApp adds iSCSI, offers software as free download SNIA IP Storage Forum sketches iSCSI, FCIP and iFCP road map Comment on this article in the SearchStorage.com Discussion forums