Storage vendors boast of wire speed iSCSI SAN

Three storage vendors are claiming to have cobbled together a SCSI over IP (iSCSI) storage network from off-the-shelf hardware,...

Three storage vendors are claiming to have cobbled together a SCSI over IP (iSCSI) storage network from off-the-shelf hardware, beating by a year industry expectations about when the first viable iSCSI storage area networks (SAN) would ship.

Alacritech, Nishan Systems and Hitachi Data Systems said they used servers, switches and RAID devices that are already shipping to achieve wire-speed iSCSI, with data transfer rates of 218Mbytes per second.

In related news, Intel is expected to announce this week that it too will be releasing an iSCSI host bus adapter (HBA). It will interoperate with products from Cisco Systems and IBM.

Alacritech said it created an "integrated storage" network interface card (NIC) that it used in its Gigabit Ethernet server and that, along with its Storage Accelerator, was connected to a Nishan IP switch via a single Gigabit Ethernet link. The target device was a Hitachi Freedom Storage system.

"What's unique about the product we're bringing to market is it's a device that performs two tasks: On LANs, it delivers wire speed Ethernet connectivity, and on storage networks, the same adapter can perform iSCSI moving block-level data," said Alacritech spokesman Barry Haaser.

Alacritech's HBA takes care of the TCP/IP and iSCSI processing, off-loading it from the server and freeing up CPU cycles.

"TCP/IP off-load engines should go a long way toward levelling the differences in resource consumption among storage networking technologies," said Nick Allen, an analyst at Gartner.

"ISCSI promises to let users operate SAN, NAS, LAN, and wide-area networks as a single, integrated network. This option will help IT managers choose storage, server and networking technologies that are more easily managed, scalable and cost-effective," he added.

Nishan IP Storage switches support Fibre Channel switching, Gigabit Ethernet switching and wire-speed conversion between Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet. Each interface can be configured to support iSCSI end systems, Fibre Channel end systems or Fibre Channel SANs.

"I'm not advocating people throw away their Fibre Channel architecture, but with this you have the flexibility to build fabrics where you can use some SCSI and some Fibre Channel," Haaser said. "This particularly becomes significant when we look at the enormous investment people have made in IP infrastructures."

Read more on Networking hardware

ISCSI TCP/IP TOE card purchase considerations ISCSI SANs are quickly gaining acceptance in small business and enterprise environments, but the benefits of iSCSI are often tempered by performance limitations when iSCSI storage traffic is added on top of everyday user LAN traffic. One means of improving iSCSI traffic performance is to include TOE (TCI/IP Offload Engine) capability on the Ethernet card itself. An iSCSI TOE allows the network adapter to process iSCSI traffic locally -- relieving those processing tasks from the host server or other computers connected to the LAN. To implement this capability, iSCSI servers must be upgraded with Ethernet NICs that include a TOE chip onboard. It's important to consider the available ports, host interface, and other card characteristics before making a purchase. In addition, the TOE card should fully support the traffic types handled on each server. This segment covers the specific considerations involved in iSCSI TOE card selection, and you'll find a series of specifications to help make on-the-spot product comparisons between vendors.
ISCSI TCP/IP TOE card specifications One means of improving iSCSI traffic performance is to include TOE (TCI/IP Offload Engine) capability on the Ethernet card itself. An iSCSI TOE allows the network adapter to process iSCSI traffic (often all Ethernet LAN traffic) locally -- relieving those burdensome processing tasks from the host server or other computers connected to the LAN. To implement this capability, iSCSI servers must be upgraded with Ethernet NICs that include a TOE chip onboard. Although the selection of iSCSI TOE cards is generally limited to just a few manufacturers, it's important to consider the available ports, host interface, and other card characteristics before making a purchase. The product snapshots in this segment highlight key specifications for a cross-section of popular iSCSI TOE cards.

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