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iSCSI specs complete, market waits for Microsoft offering

iSCSI, the protocol for sending storage over IP networks has been ratified by the IETF and now, according to SNIA, it's time to get the products rolling. However, the success of the standard may lie in the hands of Microsoft.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a standard.

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) on Tuesday completed its work on the iSCSI specification, a protocol for transporting SCSI packets over TCP/IP; the task force's action makes the protocol a standard.

Storage vendors that support iSCSI now have to make minor software adjustments to ensure that their drivers and their hardware and software products are compatible with the final version of the specification.

With the final ratification complete, SNIA said the future of iSCSI now lies in customer deployments and market adoption. But experts said success of the standard may lie in the hands of the Redmond giant, Microsoft Corp.

John Webster, senior analyst and founder of the Data Mobility Group Inc., Nashua, N.H., said the iSCSI standard has been a long time coming.

"It could be regarded as the firing gun that starts the iSCSI race," he said.

However, Webster said, the competition for IP storage dominance probably won't get interesting until Microsoft delivers an iSCSI driver in a new release of Windows sometime this summer.

Marc Farley, independent storage expert and author of Building Storage Networks, said most storage vendors view iSCSI as a business that will have reduced margins because of the associated low prices of Gigabit Ethernet, as compared with Fibre Channel.

"Today, everybody wants to figure out how to increase margins, not willingly reduce them," Farley said. "It's hard to build a market if there are relatively few providers of key pieces of the puzzle. But I believe the market will drive towards iSCSI after Microsoft blesses it with OS driver functionality."

There have not been many technical changes to the specification, according to Bryce Mackin, marketing chairman for SNIA's IP storage forum. Most of the recent work on iSCSI has come in the form of clarification and release notes that provide technical explanations of the protocol.

"The ratification of the spec really allows end users to move forward with developing and deploying [iSCSI storage networks]," Mackin said.

SNIA's IP storage forum has made some bold predictions on the future of the technology. In a December article for, 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.

Let us know what you think about the story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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