Storage Players Pass Microsoft’s iSCSI Muster

Microsoft today announced that 13 storage hardware makers have prepared their iSCSI products for use with Windows under a program that ensures compatibility between storage devices and systems and the Redmond, Wash. giant’s software.

The companies include McDATA, QLogic, Adaptec, ADIC, ATTO Technology, Cisco, Crossroads, FalconStor, EqualLogic, Intel, Intransa, Lefthand Networks, Network Appliance, SpectraLogic, and

Created under the “iSCSI Designed for Windows Logo” program, the certification means customers will have a broader choice of iSCSI hardware components proven to run Windows and Microsoft’s iSCSI Architecture. Viewed as either a complement or alternative to Fibre Channel protocols, iSCSI (pronounced eye-scuzzy), short for Internet Small Computer System Interface, is an IP-based storage networking standard for linking data storage devices.

iSCSI is used to transfer data storage over long distances, making it a key contributor to the advancement and growth of the storage area network (SAN) market. iSCSI can be used to transmit data over local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), or the Internet.

Research firms Gartner and IDC have written extensively in support of iSCSI adoption. Gartner estimates the technology could connect more than a million servers to SANs over the next few years. IDC forecasts that the iSCSI array market will jump from $216 million in 2003 to nearly $5 billion in 2007.

Claude Lorenson, product manager in Microsoft’s Enterprise Storage Division, reports the testing process was generally rigorous depending on whether an OEM was testing a bridge solution or an entire storage array.

Lorsenson also reaffirmed Microsoft’s position that iSCSI exists as a complement to Fibre Channel, noting that Windows Storage Server 2003 features a number of Fibre Channel-friendly features, such as flexible volume mounting, remote boot, and a redesigned storage port.

“We have fine-tuned our ability to be a good citizen with Fibre Channel,” Lorenson told in an interview.

Indeed, Lorenson said the most common scenario in order to balance the two protocols is that large enterprises would bridge the gap between their Fibre Channel-based networks and iSCSI for SAN islands because of the widespread availability of Ethernet and gigabit switches. An iSCSI host bus adapter (HBA) can “talk to” a Fibre Channel SAN, according to Lorenson. Moreover, iSCSI’s lower price is helping to spur its adoption on networks, which is putting pricing pressure on Fibre Channel vendors to modify their per-port pricing structure.

For Microsoft, the accomplishment is validation of the company’s iSCSI Software Initiator, a service and software package launched last June that allows businesses to use their existing infrastructure to transfer data over wide distances without having to buy additional hardware.

In related iSCSI news, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Wednesday announced a partnership with storage fabric provider McDATA to make an iSCSI SAN product for small-and medium-sized business (SMBs). The Hitachi TrueNorth iSCSI SAN Solution, tested with Microsoft’s native iSCSI drivers, is geared for Windows environments. It consists of the Thunder 9570V storage system, the McDATA Eclipse 1620 SAN networking switch, and enablement services.

Pricing begins at roughly $60,000, with total cost depending on configuration and size requirements.

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Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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