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iSCSI: Are We There Yet?

What is it that storage buyers want? According to new research by IDC, users want low-cost, high-capacity arrays and ... iSCSI. Unfortunately, "the main system vendors have not stepped up to the plate yet," says Rick Villars, vice president of storage systems research at IDC.

That was evident at last month's Storage Networking World conference in Phoenix, AZ, where the only new vendors to join the iSCSI club were Snap Appliance, with its Snap Server 15000 that does both block and file, and American Megatrends (AMI) which demonstrated its StorTrends iTX iSCSI storage appliance. Several vendors have iSCSI in the works--Infotrend, Nexsan and Procom, for example--but progress on iSCSI targets has been held back by component delays, says Tom Bayens, director of marketing at Infotrend.

Existing iSCSI vendors, meanwhile, seemed to lay low. Bill Wuertz, a senior vice president and general manager at LSI Logic, which makes an iSCSI host bus adapters (HBAs), admits that "iSCSI has been struggling to emerge," and that new small-to-medium business storage area network (SAN) announcements "may be encroaching on what could have been an iSCSI play." iSCSI may still emerge, Woertz says, "in the 10Gig timeframe," provided vendors can figure out how to make it for less money than Fibre Channel.

Network Appliance, one of the few "big boys" to offer iSCSI, claims more than 100 installations, but for a company of its size, that's not very impressive. That may be because most of the demand for iSCSI can be satisfied by network-attached storage (NAS) systems, says Randy Kerns, partner at the Evaluator Group.

IP Storage startups, of course, see a different picture. "We definitely see it happening," says Tom Major, vice president of marketing at LeftHand Networks, who expects major vendors to unveil their products in the next six months. Why the delay? For one, Major speculates, "a lot of them delayed their R&D because of the economy." And a more likely reason: "They're figuring out how to protect and adjust to the lower revenue opportunity as compared to Fibre Channel."

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