Microsoft's Fibre Alternative

ISCSI SANs require an iSCSI initiator on the host for sending data and an iSCSI target on the storage device for receiving the data. Although Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., includes iSCSI initiators with its Windows operating system, the company has not yet made an iSCSI target available for Windows Storage Server (WSS) 2003. It plans to do so by adding an optional iSCSI target module to its storage system.

Microsoft will make it possible for OEMs and large integrators 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.

Bill Allen, president of Enterprise Storage Solutions, a West Lake Village, Calif.-based solution provider, said he expects Microsoft’s addition of iSCSI to WSS 2003 to go far in legitimizing the technology. “For people interested in iSCSI, they can say Microsoft recognizes the benefit of iSCSI,” he said. “Customers have Microsoft in their data centers, so they can get storage optimized to their networks.”

Currently, several 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, with vendors expected to start offering R2-based appliances sometime in April, a Microsoft spokesperson said.

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“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.”

Initially, the iSCSI target software will only be available to Microsoft’s direct OEMs, Lorenson said.

The vendor has a pilot plan to bring the WSS 2003 OS to custom-system builders, but has not set a date, Lorenson said.