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Dell Bets On iSCSI For Networking Convergence

iSCSI serves as a satisfactory basis for implementing converged networking over 1 Gb Ethernet broadly used in corporate networking and data centers, Dell says.

Dell is promoting converged networking based on iSCSI with the servers that it sells through what it calls a simpler, more standards based approach than its server rivals.

In a recent interview, Praveen Asthana, VP of enterprise storage and networking at Dell's Round Rock, Texas, headquarters, illustrated how Dell competes with HP's BladeSystem Matrix and Cisco Systems Unified Computing Solutions, which both now offer converged networking tying blades into the nearby network fabric.

Converged networking, where I/O traffic is moved off the server, sometimes at 10 Gb Ethernet speeds, into the network fabric, is considered an asset in settings where the servers are being loaded with virtual machines. Each virtual machine often generates its own I/O needs. By allowing the server to deal with both networking and storage traffic in the same manner, converged networking reduces the computing workload on the server, offloading it to the adjacent network devices.

Virtualized servers not only make an increasing share of the data center, they're also frequently the basis for public and private cloud computing, such as Amazon Web Services' EC2. In the future, x86 servers are expected to run dozens of virtual machines per server, provided they're equipped with the I/O handling capabilities to support the increasing load. So Dell's distinct, iSCSI approach to converged networking is likely to be put to the test sooner rather than later.

Cisco has adopted its own approach to converged networking via Fibre Channel over the Ethernet at 10 Gb speeds, which it calls Data Center Ethernet or DCE, making use of Fibre Channel devices.

Critics point out that DCE is an implementation of FCoE unique to Cisco and buying Cisco servers commits the buyers to Cisco's way of networking. Cisco has responded that it has submitted DCE to the IEEE standards body and a working group has been commissioned to move it toward becoming an industry standard.

Dell says, whatever the merits of FCoE, it's found that iSCSI, a storage networking protocol that's been adapted to work over the Internet Protocol, serves as a satisfactory basis for implementing converged networking over 1 Gb Ethernet broadly used in corporate networking and data centers and 10 Gb Ethernet, the upgrade waiting in the wings.

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