Proper Protocol: Next Year May Be Too Soon For iSCSI - InformationWeek

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12/5/2003
02:16 PM
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Proper Protocol: Next Year May Be Too Soon For iSCSI

While information life-cycle management promises to be the big story of 2004, it might be joined by a protocol that promises to let blocks of data run across Ethernet without choking performance. Still, no major system vendor supports the Internet SCSI protocol.

Vendors resist iSCSI because it communicates only with the SCSI protocol, not Fibre Channel or IP, says Balint Fleischer, chief technologist at Sun Microsystems' Sun Storage division. Fleischer points to work being done on an iSCSI 2 protocol, based on RDMA, or remote direct memory access. "New iSCSI will support [Network File System] file access over RDMA, requiring a single adapter in a server, and a port on the storage," Fleischer says. "So, from a single interconnect, different apps could get block data or file data."

However, iSCSI will have to compete against lower-priced network-attached storage appliances, Fleischer says, while iSCSI 2 probably won't reach the market until 2005.

Fibre Channel already is entrenched as a means for disk-based block access, says David Freund, an analyst at Illuminata. By next year, iSCSI would be too late anyway to make IP the preferred interconnect standard. Still, "RDMA would certainly solve the ongoing issues around IP stack latency," Freund says.

Gary Rygmyr, manager of technical support at Alaska Airlines, an Alaska Air Group unit, is looking at replicating data off-site on a near-real-time basis and isn't sure what technology the company will deploy for remote mirroring. "ISCSI isn't on our radar screen," he says. "I have a limited staff here, and one person has to do R&D, product support, and all of it."

One of the Fibre Channel SAN leaders will embrace IP storage, but it won't include iSCSI. IP storage networks will be driven by Fibre Channel routing, says Jay Kidd, VP of marketing at Brocade Communications Systems Inc. "Our new router will show up in the enterprise market for connecting SANs in hierarchical storage networks, including Sonet extending Fibre Channel."

Mike Burns, director of the IS group at Minnesota Elevator Inc., doesn't expect a move to iSCSI next year because the company is waiting for a track record. Minnesota Elevator is a lot like many other companies. "As designs change, we [take] 25 to 30 digital pictures for every job we do, and storage scalability will be our No. 1 issue," Burns says. "Eventually, we'll look at disk-to-disk backup with something like iSCSI, but that's at least 12 to 18 months away."

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