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Has iSCSI arrived?

Storage managers looking to save a few shekels have turned to iSCSI. This technology is fighting to make inroads into the data center, but according to expert Randy Kerns, it's on the outside looking in. Randy will be addressing iSCSI in an upcoming conference session at the Spring Storage Decisions conference in Chicago, May 25-27. His session on integrating iSCSI and will explain the types of usage of iSCSI and storage tiers in use in the different market segments.

In mid-February EMC added iSCSI support for Clariion. Network Appliance claims it has more than 1,000 customers using some form of iSCSI. Is this the validation necessary to say iSCSI has arrived?

Randy Kerns
Well, for everyone that is using iSCSI, they would say it has arrived. Has it made a big market impact? Not yet. Is it profitable? That's a tougher question because most iSCSI has been sold in the lower margin markets. I think what EMC has done is expanded the breadth of the iSCSI market and added to the validation. Do you see iSCSI being used for more than just stranded servers or less mission critical applications? Or will this be the accepted role of iSCSI?
I think there will be usage beyond stranded server or less-demanding IP SAN installations. Attachment of specialty devices and tape solutions will probably be the next area. However, right now the small and medium business market consolidation needs will be the main consumer. There still is a bit of confusion over TCP off-load engine (TOE) cards. Are they really necessary to speed up performance? Should they be used sparingly with certain applications? Are the price points for using TOE cards compelling enough?
Yes, they speed operations by mainly off-loading the server. What this does is postpone getting a larger server to handle the processing overhead of the network stack involved in iSCSI. To this point, most iSCSI installations have not been in performance demanding environments -- it's good enough. So, sparingly would be the answer now. The argument will be whether to invest in the accelerator cards or to buy a bigger server. Have you noticed any managerial issues with who owns the network? Is IP storage causing some role shifting in the data center?
iSCSI is primarily not in the traditional data center so it hasn't been an issue in the environments it has gone into. I think storage is so critical in the enterprise data center that storage professionals will control it regardless of the network connection technology. What else can Storage Decisions attendees expect to learn about integrating iSCSI at your session?
We will go over some of the research that needs to be done before making a deployment of iSCSI in a tiered storage hierarchy and talk about deployment strategies.

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