The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has approved a protocol to help companies run storage networks more cheaply and efficiently.
The IETF's IP storage steering group has formally ratified the Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI) protocol as a standard and released it for comments.
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The iSCSI protocol is an IP-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities.
Because IP networks are commonplace, iSCSI can be used to transmit data over Lans, Wans and the internet, allowing for data storage and retrieval from any independent workstation.
These iSCSI networks can be five to 10 times more cost effective to run than using a fibre channel storage area networks, experts believe. This is mainly because of standardised technology and the fact that the same workforce needed to manage common data networks can manage the storage network.
ISCSI works by encapsulating SCSI commands and data in Transmission Control Protocol packet headers and sending them over IP networks. Once the packets arrive at the storage server, the headers are stripped off and the data stored.
Some experts have claimed, iSCSI will take time to mature into an enterprise-class storage technology, but that it wil,l eventually, find its way into large data centres.
"ISCSI is not going to throw fibre channel out of the data centre. It's going to be in coexistence with it," said Tony Prigmore, analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.
"We would not expect iSCSI technology to be in the centre of the glasshouse infrastructure. We expect it to earn its stripes on periphery and then, over time, migrate to elements of core infrastructure."
Over the next several months, iSCSI start-up companies, as well as industry stalwarts such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer and EMC, will begin shipping iSCSI-compatible products.