iSCSI Gang Talks Big

As in, support of 10-Gbit/s, high growth, and promises of more to come

April 11, 2007

4 Min Read
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Despite claims by Fibre Channel proponents, including those touting a new Fibre Channel-over-Ethernet (FCoE) spec, iSCSI is on the rise, say its supporters. (See Ethernet Storage to Morph Again.) And they're using 10-Gbit/s data rates, SAS support, virtualization, and other features as evidence of cracking the enterprise market.

Take LeftHand Networks, which today said it will work with HP's ProLiant DL320s server (in addition to IBM's x3650 servers), enabling support of SAS, SATA, and hardware RAID 6. "iSCSI supports small and large SANs. Customers no longer compromise on features, performance, and capacity," asserts John Fanelli, VP of marketing at LeftHand.

LeftHand also unveiled its 10-Gbit/s roadmap. (See LeftHand Adds 10-GigE SANs.) More accurately, LeftHand reiterated its previous assertion that it will offer full integration of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet in its SAN/iQ software sometime this summer. (See 10-Gig iSCSI SANs Set for Takeoff.)

Today, it's possible to use SAN/iQ with 10-Gbit/s, LeftHand maintains, but it requires customers to load the 10-Gbit/s drivers into the NICs that populate the IBM and HP servers LeftHand uses to host its iSCSI SANs. That can wind up being costly and complicated, so LeftHand's message to customers is "Wait a few months and do it with us."

LeftHand is boasting high growth figures. Spokesperson Tracy Floming says LeftHand doubled sales in 2006 and is set to do the same this year. The vendor claims to have sold close to 5,000 systems since 2004. Its customer base is over 2,000, and the employee roster is at roughly 200.As for FCoE, LeftHand's taking the high road, despite claims by the spec's proponents that iSCSI will be relegated to SMB deployments and fail to gain enterprise support on a par with Fibre Channel.

"It's a group of vendors waving the white flag of surrender. It is an endorsement of what we're doing," says LeftHand's Floming. The transition to IP is forcing FC suppliers to evaluate their options, she says.

EqualLogic is similarly confident of its encroachment on high-end SANs. It reports 2,300 customers and has 300 employees, and the company claims it was profitable in 2006. It's made much of recent SAS introductions and the addition of virtualization support for its wares by Xensource -- both features that show greater enterprise acceptance, management insists. (See EqualLogic Tops Offs SAS Series, SAS Wave Breaks Big, and Virtual Iron Inks iSCSI Deal.) Ten-gig support, however, won't be ready until 2008, when management thinks customers will start looking for it. (See 10-Gig iSCSI SANs Set for Takeoff.)

As for FCoE, senior director of product management Eric Schott says, "With the proposed standard, Fibre Channel vendors have basically admitted the inevitable domination of Ethernet. This is a strategic retreat, with a goal of holding onto their existing investment in the FC architecture for as long as possible."

Intransa is also hopping on the 10-Gbit/s bandwagon and recently announced that systems supporting the data rate are in beta test. The company announced that a $2 million infusion from new investor Entrepia Ventures has brought its latest round to $12 million. (See Intransa Gets $2.7M.)But other watched pots aren't boiling. Despite speculation that full acquisition of H3C by 3Com might bring H3C's enterprise-level iSCSI Neocean SANs to western markets from China, it's apparently a no-go. "At this time, there are no plans to offer that product in the U.S. or Western markets," says 3Com spokesman John Vukson. (See 3Com Closes H3C Deal.)

While iSCSI vendors seek to bolster a claim to the high-end SAN market, others are relegating them to a niche. "Fibre Channel over Ethernet competes with iSCSI. While there are some killer mid-size applications for iSCSI, we see Fibre Channel over Ethernet as a way to expand for those who have Fibre Channel," says Soni Jiandaniof Nuova Systems, the stealth-mode startup behind much of the FCoE work.

Jiandani won't say, however, what Nuova's doing exactly, or when it plans to announce anything. Considering that the FCoE spec won't be ready for public viewing until 2008, there's plenty of time for the iSCSI crowd to counter her claims.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • EqualLogic Inc.

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Intransa Inc.

  • LeftHand Networks Inc.

  • 3Com Corp.0

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