ISCSI Storage Is Red-Hot, But VARs Still Need To Evangelize

“It&'s like Fibre Channel when it first started,” said Michael Fanelli, western regional manager at SSI hubcity, a Metuchen, N.J., solution provider. “It languished a year, then it was Fibre Channel-this and Fibre Channel-that.”

The time for languishing is over, according to research firm IDC, which said the market for iSCSI storage, which allows storage capacity to be accessed by multiple users over standard LANs, grew 10 times from 2003 to 2004 to reach $119 million. Despite that growth, however, iSCSi accounts for only a tiny fraction of the entire storage market, according to IDC.

For solution providers, bringing iSCSI to their customers still requires evangelizing.

Pierre Kerbage, CEO and owner of Network Logistic, an Austin, Texas-based IBM and Hewlett-Packard solution provider, said his company has yet to see a single customer pro-actively ask about iSCSI. It is, however, being used by midrange and larger customers who do a lot of clustering or have Linux environments, said Kerbage. However, because the Windows-based iSCSI initiator from Microsoft is still new, and smaller business&' storage needs aren&'t that great, iSCSI has yet to catch on with smaller customers. “SMBs are more strong with NAS or even USB-attached storage,” he said.

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Selling iSCSI is more than understanding customers&' curent needs, said Fanelli. “You need to look at what they need next year, not today,” he said. “There&'s a frightening amount of new technology out there. It&'s frightening because it changes every day.”

Kerbage said that while iSCSI is still new, the pickup in product introductions could change that quickly. “If you ask me about this next year, I&'ll probably have a completely different answer,” he said.

Storage vendors are doing their part to fill the iSCSI pipeline.

At the high end, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Chelsio Communications this month unveiled its T204-ET, a quad-port Gigabit Ethernet TCP offload engine for network servers and iSCSI target mode applications. It is expected to ship in January at a list price of $1,495.

LeftHand Networks, Boulder, Colo., just introduced two hardware modules that work with its SAN/iQ software to build iSCSI SANs. The Network Storage Module (NSM) 160 can be configured for 1 Tbyte or 2 Tbytes of capacity, while the NSM 260 can be configured for 3 Tbytes or 6 Tbytes. Both are available now, with the NSM 160 starting at $8,500 with 1 Tbyte of capacity. The company is also providing software to turn a Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL380 into an iSCSI array.

Silverback Systems, Campbell, Calif., is shipping its iSnap 2100 iSCSI host-bus adapter, a dual-port Gigabit card with throughput reaching up to 440 MBps and up to 250,000 iSCSI I/Os per second. It is available at a street price of about $350.

A couple of vendors are also looking to make iSCSI more available to system builders. Norfolk, Va.-based Wasabi Systems unveiled software that allows solution providers to turn off-the-shelf PC servers into iSCSI arrays.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel, meanwhile, introduced a storage array that lets solution providers assemble their own iSCSI arrays by adding the appropriate number of hard drives.