Q&A: Charles Stevens, Microsoft Enterprise Storage Page 3


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Q: Standards play an important role in the management of storage-oriented software. One of these, the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), formerly known as Bluefin, is an open protocol that makes it possible for disparate storage devices to work together on a storage area network (SAN). What is Microsoft doing with regard to this spec? How does iSCSI fit into Microsoft's storage strategy? Discuss the importance of this within Windows Server 2003. Some storage pundits have positioned iSCSI as a potential threat to the existence of Fibre Channel. Does Microsoft see the two in this light, or are they complementary and why?

We are exploring and evaluating Bluefin at this time, but Microsoft is enthusiastic about iSCSI. We are playing an important role in bringing the storage vendor community together to make iSCSI-based applications and storage devices a reality for customers. iSCSI will provide a lower-cost option for customers that require high levels of performance and reliability for their planned storage area network (SAN) implementations.

Microsoft delivered Internet SCSI (iSCSI) support for Windows client and server environments in June. Microsoft's iSCSI software driver will continue to be provided via Web download at no charge for Microsoft Windows 2000 client and server versions, Windows XP client, and the Windows Server 2003 family of products. More than 60 independent software vendors (ISVs) and independent hardware vendors (IHVs) are in the planning stages or are developing Windows-based applications and storage hardware products for iSCSI. And Microsoft has created an iSCSI Designed for Windows Logo Program to enable IHVs to qualify their Windows-targeted iSCSI hardware components.

We do not view iSCSI as a replacement for Fibre Channel. iSCSI complements existing storage solutions — for example, if an enterprise has two or more separate Fibre Channel SANs in operation, iSCSI is the perfect low cost solution to connect these storage islands. If an enterprise has not yet invested in Fibre Channel, iSCSI allows it to implement a new cost-effective storage solution that runs over their existing Ethernet infrastructure.

By being able to leverage the existing TCP/IP and Ethernet networks, the cost of entry into the world of SANs is considerably lower. iSCSI allows smaller and medium-sized companies that can't handle the large capital outlay associated with Fibre Channel to be able to deploy a SAN of their own — something that was beyond their reach until now.

Q: What challenges and key trends does Microsoft see going forward in the storage software market that will shape its strategy?

For our division, the biggest challenge is building out our organization quickly but intelligently. We need to grow rapidly in order to meet the great opportunities in front of us, but we want to exercise discipline and strategy as we do so. Finding smart, creative, and dedicated people is a top priority for us. From a market trends perspective, the development and adoption of standards will be a key element of our strategy. And we look forward to working closely with customers and partners as we execute on our mission.

This interview originally appeared on internetnews.com.

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