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IBM storage chiefs speak out about iSCSI, SAS

Two of IBM's storage directors discuss the role of tape, why the midrange is hot, SVC versus Invista virtualization and the NetApp reseller deal.

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Can you talk about your iSCSI product, the DS300? How many customers do you have?

Andrews: We launched it last year. We've gotten good traction on it at the low end of our market. We really targeted it with integration with our x line servers as an iSCSI box. We won't go into exact numbers of customers, but we've seen the iSCSI marketplace as a whole take off. It's been well received in the marketplace, and we've received reasonable traction in marketplace that we targeted it for.

Lecnher: We just recently announced support for multiple operating environments in the Intel space. We have intentions to support Linux as an operating environment as well. We continue to release products and enhance the scope of the supported domains.

Two years ago, IBM pulled an iSCSI product off the market. Why is the timing right for iSCSI now?

Andrews: When iSCSI was first considered, IBM was really a leader in that and really has done a lot in testing established concepts in general. I think the previous product wasn't doing exactly what we wanted it to do and the iSCSI market was less mature than we thought it was at that time. We're now much more comfortable. We think there's a much better match between the product and the target market that we're in. In the first pass, I think we sort of preceded the market a little bit. One of the risks you take when you try to be a leader in the marketplace is sometimes you end up ahead of the demand curve. Two years down the line I think we're more in sync with the overall environment.

Lechner: The only added driver for this is that there have been significant and rapid adoptions in the marketplace as part of a shift away from DAS to NAS. As customers look to embrace NAS, they want the simplicity that IP brings. Over the intervening time between now and our first foray into the iSCSI marketplace, the market has shifted and we're reflecting that.

Speaking of SCSI, what about SAS drives? Where will those be used in the future? What about SATA drives?

Lechner: I'll talk to the SATA drive question. There's a lot of space for it as a second-tier storage solution from an ILM perspective, for midterm data retention requirements. From a DR [disaster recovery] perspective, as clients look to improve DR solutions in their environments, they've historically been faced with the issue of having to place identical technology in both primary and secondary sites even though the requirements are substantially different. The exception is if the client is running a hot-hot network between the two sites with the secondary site just as active as the first. But most clients are not doing that -- most are using their DR site for failover only. So, most customers would love to be able to put midrange storage solutions with inexpensive drives like SATA in a secondary site with DR implementations if they were able to do so. Our virtualization technology, meanwhile, allows them to mix different storage technologies like that. We abstract the mirroring and replication services layer to allow that binding to be broken from the physical storage array. If the client embraces our virtualization technology, they can mix and match technology consistent with the price, performance and availability characteristics that they need.

What about SAS?

Lechner: While we don't currently use them in any of our external storage products, IBM has delivered SAS drives internally in some of our servers. As SAS becomes more mature, we would anticipate incorporating SAS drives into our storage products. How broadly and in what application environments is something that will evolve over time?

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