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IP SANs move from beta to reality

Two announcements are fueling the IP storage revolution: Intransa's new IP SAN system and Microsoft's free iSCSI software.

Intransa Inc., a storage startup based in San Jose, Calif., is a one-stop shop for IP storage area networks, thanks to its newly released IP5000 Storage System, an iSCSI SAN.

The company said the IP5000 introduces an architecture and management software that lets customers add storage capacity from 3 to 10 terabytes (TB) and consolidate Linux, Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange environments; Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle databases; and data management and disaster recovery applications.

David Ellis, Intransa's technical marketing manager, said the IP5000 now comes with snapshot capability, and the company plans to automate the process in the next product release.

The IP5000 is based on the patented IntraStor architecture, which provides self-healing and self-managing features that free up IT resources, Intransa said.

The IP5000 Storage System has independent storage controllers and disk enclosures that are connected through a 2 Gigabit Ethernet switch. By keeping the controllers independent from the ATA disk drives, Intransa said, customers have the ability to separately increase performance and capacity as needed, without disrupting applications.

Storage can be managed as a single pool from anywhere in the network, and storage management functions -- such as the virtual volume manager, mirroring and snapshots -- are implemented within the network. Additionally, discovery, fault management and failover are managed automatically by the IP5000.

Though the IP SAN market is still in its infancy, Intransa is not without competition. Several startups, including LeftHand Networks and EqualLogic Systems, are rolling out IP SAN technology at a rapid pace.

Michael Peterson, president and senior analyst at Strategic Research Corp., Carpinteria, Calif., said that so far, EqualLogic has the best traction. "They are also more 'normal,' whereas Intransa and LeftHand create islands of storage," he said.

The IP5000 Storage System is now available through resellers for about $62,500 for a 3.2 TB unit.

Microsoft's iSCSI download

Another major iSCSI announcement made its way down from Redmond, Wash., yesterday when Microsoft Corp., Intransa's biggest software partner, delivered its iSCSI software initiator package, including the Microsoft iSCSI initiator service and the Microsoft iSCSI initiator software driver. The package can now be downloaded on the Web for free. The software driver is for Microsoft Windows 2000 client and server versions, Windows XP, and the recently launched Windows Server 2003 family of products.

"The release of iSCSI initiator software for Windows will be a huge boon for IP storage," said Mike Fisch, senior analyst for the Clipper Group Inc., in Wellesley, Mass. "This vote of confidence by Microsoft makes it much easier and less risky for enterprises to implement this technology."

Fisch said Fibre Channel will continue to dominate high-performance data center SANs, but iSCSI will take off as an inexpensive alternative for connecting servers to networked storage.

According to Fisch, small and medium-sized businesses with limited financial and technical resources will be attracted to IP storage. It is also useful as a less costly way to connect smaller "stranded" servers into an FC SAN and let them benefit from consolidated storage.

"In both environments, Windows is the dominant OS, so its support for iSCSI drivers will accelerate adoption of IP storage," Fisch said.

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

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