ISCSI arrays: Where are they?

If you're tired of waiting for hardware vendors to come out with iSCSI arrays, you can always build your own.

In the year since Microsoft announced its client-side iSCSI initiator, it has qualified approximately more than a dozen iSCSI targets, not counting NetApp's product line. Not bad, but nothing to write home about either. However, several software vendors have recently announced iSCSI target software for generic servers, which may result in more iSCSI storage to choose from--soon.

iSCSI target software players include FalconStor, which storage folks know as a storage virtualization pioneer, with its iSCSI Storage Server; StringBean Software with WinTarget; and Wasabi Systems with Storage Builder for iSCSI Appliances.

Both the FalconStor and StringBean offerings run on a native Windows platform--in FalconStor's case, on top of Windows Storage Server (WSS). With it, a storage vendor can quickly add iSCSI support to an existing network-attached storage (NAS) device running WSS, so that users redeploy WSS disk resources for block applications such as Microsoft Exchange. "If you've already bought a 1TB NAS system, but are only using 200GB of it and want to run Exchange on it, it doesn't make sense to go out and buy that storage again," says John Lallier, FalconStor vice president of technology.

StringBean's WinTarget, meanwhile, has gotten the nod from an important beta tester--Microsoft, which is using WinTarget in conjunction with its own Virtual Server virtual machine software to test and demonstrate systems without having to deploy dedicated hardware, explains Claude Lorenson, Microsoft's technical product manager for storage.

Wasabi's Storage Builder, meanwhile, runs on NetBSD, and is delivered on a CompactFlash card so that storage vendors can quickly drop it in to existing storage hardware. What kind of storage vendors? "Tier 2 OEMs," says Jim Schrand, vice president of marketing at Wasabi. "An EMC," for example, "wants to be perceived as a software company," and as such will probably write its own iSCSI target software. "But a Dell," he posits--"they're not going to roll their own software."

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