Chelsio Opens Up iSCSI Software

Gets involved in selling standalone iSCSI software, adapter agenda remains

February 3, 2007

3 Min Read
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In a move that demonstrates the growing momentum in iSCSI SANs, Chelsio has released a version of its Linux-based iSCSI target software that operates with third-party adapters. (See Chelsio Intros Linux iSCSI Target.)

To review: iSCSI target software enables a disk, array, tape library, or switch to respond to iSCSI requests from an initiator on a server. The software usually includes an interface for carving disk space into volumes, partitions, or LUNs on an iSCSI SAN.

Up to now, Chelsio, best-known for its 10-Gbit/s adapter cards, has tied its iSCSI target software strictly to its own hardware. But Chelsio is willing to test its luck in the standalone iSCSI OEM software market for at least the next few months.

That market already has a established suppliers, including Wasabi Systems, FalconStor, Datacore, and LeftHand Networks, to name just a few -- and not to mention a variety of open-source Linux iSCSI targets. Chelsio's entry has at least one industry observer scratching his head.

"Why [Chelsio CEO] Kianoosh Naghshineh would want to walk into the rotating knives of the iSCSI target market, I can't imagine," quips Mickey McIntire, former CEO of String Bean Software, which was sold to Microsoft in March 2006. (See Microsoft Munches String Bean.)Naghshineh himself says it's partly experimental. "We've invested a couple of years in iSCSI software. It's a valuable product on its own," he says. Chelsio will sell its new iSCSI Target 3.0 software for $495 to anyone who wants it, but Naghshineh thinks the chief takers will be VARs supplying the international broadband and video markets with high-speed iSCSI SANs.

A few of these VARs have been asking Chelsio for standalone software for a long time. Their hope is to create their own value-added iSCSI platforms more cost-effectively. While there are quite a few Windows-based targets out there, Linux ones are harder to set up -- ergo, the need to turn to a vendor like Chelsio.

Notably, though, while it's improved the performance of its iSCSI Linux target with this release, and added a GUI, Chelsio doesn't pretend to have some of the management bells and whistles boasted by other Linux targets. Indeed, features like replication and snapshots appear to be missing. According to Chelsio's press statement, more features will be offered in a "full turnkey storage software solution during the first half of this year."

So what's attracting the VARs? At least one says his interest is performance. "There's a big difference in speed with Chelsio," says Barron Mertens, CEO of DSG Storage, a Canadian startup specializing in iSCSI solutions. "It's a well written, multi-threaded stack. There's a huge performance benefit."

Indeed, Chelsio claims to have doubled performance with this release.Mertens will continue to work with Chelsio hardware. And Chelsio's CEO continues to see the advantage of its adapters. "A 10-gig card from Chelsio still runs faster than someone else's," Naghshineh asserts.

If nothing else, Chelsio's entry into the iSCSI software market is an indicator of growing demand -- a point that's reinforced by industry sources. "We're seeing enormous demand," says DSG's Mertens. He says the release of iSCSI compatibility with VMware's ESX has opened up a volume of projects that were waiting for the virtualization engine to make that move. (See VMware Eyes Enterprise, Microsoft.)

"The demand is there. Last year, I would have said most customers were SMBs with 1 or 2 Tbytes of storage. Now, we have at least a couple of customers asking for more than 100 Tbytes of iSCSI," says one iSCSI supplier, who asked not to be named.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Chelsio Communications Inc.

  • DataCore Software Corp.

  • DSG Storage Inc.

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • LeftHand Networks Inc.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • Wasabi Systems Inc.0

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