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Comdex 2001: Adaptec drives iSCSI deeper into storage

Adaptec took the wraps off three Internet Protocol (IP) storage adapters at Comdex, attempting to provide users with better data transfer speeds over Ethernet networks and help link disparate storage systems.

Adaptec has garnered the attention of some of the storage world's biggest players, including Hewlett-Packard and Advanced Digital Information. Companies such as HP have turned to Adaptec to build new products or beef up existing servers with support for the emerging iSCSI standard for linking data storage systems over IP.

The iSCSI standard should help users send both block-level and file-level data across Ethernet networks, meaning users can handle a wider variety of data types with one storage server. Most storage area network (SAN) products have dealt with block information, while network attached storage (NAS) servers funnel file-level data.

Adaptec will use some of its products to help speed the flow of data through iSCSI connections and ease the links between SAN and NAS environments, said Balaji Baktha, Adaptec's vice-president of product marketing.

The company unveiled its ANA-7711 adapter, which is designed to handle some of the TCP/IP processing load in a server. Adaptec claims the adapter can free much of a server's processing power by reducing the TCP/IP processing burden placed on a chip. Managing TCP/IP requests can use as much as 70% of a processor's clock cycle, so offloading these tasks on to an adapter frees the chip to work on other types of data, Baktha said.

Adaptec customers are building products using the adapter, and users should be able to buy the product during the first half of 2002.

Adaptec also demonstrated the ASA-7211 iSCSI, which adds iSCSI functions to an existing SAN product. The adapter gives users some of the key benefits associated with iSCSI, such as the ability to send file-level data over an Ethernet network with a SAN server and the ease of management often linked with managing storage over the network, Baktha said.

The product is also in the hands of Adaptec customers and will be released next year.

To cap off its iSCSI demonstrations, Adaptec used its ASR-7511 to link a pair of fibre channel SANs over an IP network. This adapter enables users with fibre channel SANs in different locations to link their storage environments over IP networks, Baktha said. Users can also make existing SAN products more flexible with the adapter, because it provides another way to pump block-level data over the network.

The ASR-7511 is currently available to original equipment manufacturers only.

IBM and HP have been actively promoting iSCSI technology along with a number of other smaller players, as they hope to cash in on the move of storage on to the network. Storage companies are trying to avoid the proprietary restraints that dogged the fibre channel world.

The companies claim that adding IP functions to storage hardware should reduce administration costs. "Everybody knows IP," Baktha said. "There are so many more administrators who are familiar with IP than fibre channel, so there is no special training required to use these products."

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