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SD 2004 preview: iSCSI's early adopters

At the Storage Decisions conference this April, Randy Kerns, a senior partner with the Evaluator Group Inc., will moderate a panel discussion on iSCSI, the IP storage standard that promises low-cost storage networks. The panelists will include some brave souls who were among the first end users to adopt iSCSI technology.

In this interview, Kerns shares some common misconceptions about iSCSI, describes how the technology might change the price of Fibre Channel SANs, and explains what users can expect from his discussion at Storage Decisions. Can iSCSI realistically compete with Fibre Channel SANs anywhere other than in the entry-level space?
I would say no, for several reasons, the most important reason being the market segment requirements of enterprise data centers with guaranteed performance and response times and the fact that the Fibre Channel infrastructure is already built out in those data centers and dominates. What impact is iSCSI having on traditional Fibre Channel SANs in terms of costs, functionality and where it plays in real-world environments?
There has been some movement lately to reduce the price of Fibre Channel [host bus adapters]. It's about time, because the prices have not followed a traditional price reduction curve based on technology maturity and volume. This has been suspicious, but now the movement to lower prices is very welcome. I think that iSCSI becoming available helped to break this loose. Other hardware, most notably switch ports, has been on a progressive price decline, and I don't believe iSCSI is having any effect there. I don't see any functionality reaction and do not expect any. What are some of the limitations of iSCSI?
Performance determinism is probably one issue. There are a few others, but that is a lengthier, involved discussion that includes consideration for organizational dynamics and who supports storage. Based on your experience talking to early adopters, would you say there have been any common or notable hiccups among those implementing iSCSI?
There have been some, and I think we'll get some interesting responses from our panel discussion. The biggest thing I've heard is the surprise that customers have had in understanding that they have the same storage administration and management tasks as they do with Fibre Channel. For some reason, they didn't understand that, which I found amazing. What can users expect to learn from your upcoming presentation at Storage Decisions?
I think the panel discussion should be illuminating. Hearing real-world experience is great information. We plan on asking questions regarding the business requirements, the alternatives chosen and the actual experiences encountered with iSCSI. The panelists will also share some of their lessons learned and offer suggestions.

For more information:

Guide to implementing iSCSI

Experts: What's the buzz on iSCSI?

Emulex predicts sub-$500 Fibre Channel HBAs

Fibre Channel for less?

Dig Deeper on SAN technology and arrays

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