Microsoft Acquires iSCSI SAN Technology

Microsoft said Friday it has acquired the technical assets and intellectual property of String Bean Software and hired three of the four people who worked at the Montgomery Village, Md.-based developer of iSCSI targets.

Building a SAN based on iSCSI requires that the host server has an iSCSI initiator for sending data and that the storage device has an iSCSI target for receiving the data.

While Microsoft has included iSCSI initiators with its server operating systems for some time, the company has not made an iSCSI target available with its storage operating system, Windows Storage Server 2003.

With the iSCSI target, Microsoft plans to make it possible for OEMs, and possibly eventually custom system builders, to use its WSS 2003 to build hybrid storage appliances that can be used for file (NAS) or block (iSCSI) applications, said Claude Lorenson, group product manager for the company's Windows Server Division.

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Currently, a number of OEMs and large integrators use WSS 2003 to build NAS appliances. Microsoft plans to add the iSCSI target as an option to WSS 2003 R2, which has already been released to storage OEMs. Those OEMs are expected to start offering R2-based appliances in the April timeframe, a Microsoft spokesperson said.

"We're taking the next step in simplifying customer storage," Lorenson said. "For example, customers could use one device for e-mail and for storing files."

A few OEMs already offer such hybrid appliances based on WSS 2003, including Iomega and Fujitsu-Siemens, who have separate OEM agreements with String Bean for the iSCSI target software, Lorenson said.

Initially, the iSCSI target software will only be available to Microsoft's direct OEMs, said Lorenson. Large systems integrators who build NAS devices based on WSS 2003 will have access to the iSCSI target at a later date, he said.

While Microsoft has had plans to open its WSS 2003 operating system to the custom system builder community, it has yet to do so, Lorenson said. However, the vendor has a pilot plan to bring the OS to system builders, but no set date yet, he said.