IBM's iSCSI Offering
- By John K. Waters
SAN JOSE, CA--IBM took a big step into a smaller world with its recent announcement
of a new network storage solution aimed at small to medium sized businesses.
Big Blue's new Linux-based, iSCSI-enabled network storage appliance, the IP
Storage 200i, supports networks of storage products built using TCP/IP, instead
of the Fibre Channel communication standard typically used by high-end storage
area networks (SANs).
The move highlights a serious investment by IBM in the new iSCSI standard,
which is an Internet version of the small computer system interface (SCSI) technology
used to connect hard disks and other devices to computers. IBM is working with
Cisco Systems to make iSCSI a standard approved by the Internet Engineering
Task Force. (Cisco acquired iSCSI developer NuSpeed in July.)
iSCSI is a type of IP storage. IP storage systems send block-level data over
an IP network. iSCSI, transmits native SCSI over a layer of the IP stack. iSCSI
lets a corporate network transfer and store SCSI commands and data at any location
with access to the WAN or, if transmitted over the Internet, to locations with
access to the Internet. It also allows smaller localized SANs to be built using
the common Ethernet infrastructure. Consequently, iSCSI enables SANs to be implemented
by a broad, mainstream market.
The iSCSI standard makes it possible to use ordinary TCP/IP hardware instead
of specialized Fibre Channel equipment in the development of a SAN. SANs are
highly scalable networks of servers and storage devices interconnected through
Fibre Channel hubs and switches. Although a SAN is typically clustered in close
proximity to other computing resources (say, an IBM S/390 mainframe), these
networks may also extend to remote locations for backup and archival storage,
using wide area network (WAN) carrier technologies, such as asynchronous transfer
mode or Synchronous Optical Network.
As more and more IT organizations find their data storage requirements passing
the terabyte mark, SANs and related technologies are becoming a hot topic. But
it's not the data storage explosion that's driving the growth of this market;
it's the data management demands. Hard disk space is cheap and plentiful, and
IT administrators rarely give a second thought to adding 50 GBs here and there
when the need arises. But the overhead associated with directly attached storage
is considerable, and managing all that data is becoming a nightmare in some
organizations-especially when you throw in the high-availability demands of
"As e-business and the Internet move storage from the back room to the heart
of the IT network," said Linda Sanford, head of IBM's storage group, "customers
are looking to take the islands of storage they have built and create interoperable,
open storage networks, be it within a single department or a worldwide enterprise."
IBM has targeted its iSCSI offerings for workgroups and small departments
that cannot justify the expense of bringing Fibre Channel-based SANs to the
desktop, but which already have the infrastructure in place to support TCP/IP.
But IBM has also made it clear that it is not abandoning its larger enterprise
customers that depend on Fibre Channel solutions. In addition to the IP Storage
200i announcement, the company announced a series of storage technology enhancements
and customer-focused solutions, including native Fibre Channel for IBM's 3584
UltraScalable Tape Library, a 32 GB cache upgrade to IBM Shark, and a Web-based
support program aimed at storage customers.
The company also announced the industry's first open network-attached storage
(NAS) gateway, the IBM TotalStorage 300G, which allows LAN-based clients and
servers to interoperate with an existing SAN. The idea is to leverage the features
and performance of a SAN with the ease and convenience of a NAS product.
According to IBM's Sanford, the 100i version of the IP appliance will be available
in the first half of this year for a starting price of around $20,000.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached