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The Road to Networked Storage
One way or another, enterprise storage is going to be networked. Will it be through FC? Will it be through IP? Or, will it be some combination of the two? Lauffin says he sees both technologies as having a substantial presence within the IT industry. “There's going to be a place for FC – because there are certain protocols in the FC world that are still more advanced than the IP world,” he says.
Gal-Oz agrees but also says that because user preferences and applications are so diverse, this is what will dictate the choice of FC or IP. He also believes that many organizations will use IP to extend their FC SANs. “These users have already invested in a robust FC SAN solution and would like to leverage this investment by connecting more servers,” he says.
Gal-Oz goes on to say that FC connectivity for smaller servers may be too expensive or not possible due to lack of FC infrastructure. The solution, he says, “is to use an intelligent iSCSI with a FC SAN switch that includes security, multi-pathing, and volume management.”
Gal-Oz believes this will allow the FC SANs to ‘fan-out’ and provide simple and inexpensive connectivity for hundreds of small servers. In addition, he says that the connectivity and management costs can range from ‘zero’ dollars to under $1,000 – depending on the performance requirements or need for high availability.
Deploying iSCSI for Misson-Critical Applications
It seems that more and more companies are deploying iSCSI at the edge for less critical or performance-intensive storage, but are they using it for mission-critical applications? “With the adoption of any new form of technology, most companies that are attracted to the concept and believe in the concept – in this case, IP storage and IP SANs – will first deploy it in a non-mission-critical application. As they become more comfortable with the technology and the technology proves itself, we will begin to see it deployed in more mission-critical applications,” Lauffin says.
Gal-Oz firmly believes the idea is catching on and points out that many of the traditional enterprise-class FC SAN storage suppliers are making iSCSI available on their high-end storage products. “I think there will be a huge drive to connect as many servers as possible to the data center, and many of those servers will be connected using iSCSI,” he says.
He cites campus environments (e.g. large universities, hospitals, and state and local governments) as prime examples because these institutions have large LANs spread across hundreds of acres and spanning many individual buildings. “Campus environments tend to have a central IT group responsible for storage services from the data center, and only 10 to 25 percent of their servers are within the data center – the rest are scattered around the campus with no FC connection to the data center.” However, he did say that they are all connected via a LAN, such as a Sonnet ring, and this is what provides the connectivity layer for iSCSI over TCP/IP.
Gal-Oz feels a common application for the data center FC may be to provide backup and disaster recovery services to all the departmental servers on a campus by using the existing backup software to drive backup files over the Sonnet ring to an intelligent iSCSI multi-protocol switch, which in turn writes the files for the FC-SAN.
In addition, he also believes that another application might handle the vaulting of critical or sensitive data that cannot be resident on unsecured servers or that might provide storage for the ever-expanding email databases. “Eventually, instead of only 10 percent of servers on a campus connecting to the SAN, 90 percent of the servers will be connected using a combination of iSCSI, FC, and intelligent iSCSI multi-protocol switches,” he concludes.
Whether the future is FC, iSCSI, or more likely a combination of the two, the common requirements for all storage customers will remain the same – to reduce costs, minimize overhead, streamline administration, and make storage simply an additional component in their overall network strategies.