Microsoft to Unleash iSCSI

Sets June date for its iSCSI Windows driver. Will it be the catalyst IP SANs have needed?

March 13, 2003

3 Min Read
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Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) announced today that it will deliver iSCSI drivers for its Windows client and server products in June, blaming the late ratification of the standard for its delayed support (see Microsoft Announces iSCSI Plans).

Advocates of the specification, which enables SCSI commands to run over TCP/IP networks, had been hoping Microsoft would include a native iSCSI driver as part of its upcoming Windows Server 2003 (formerly called Windows .NET), instead of a bolt-on offering after the launch (see Microsoft Won't Ship iSCSI in .NET).

Microsoft officials say the final version of the spec, ratified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) one month ago, came too late to be included in the first release of the operating system. But the company says nothing prohibits iSCSI from being locked in to the next iteration (see iSCSI Gets Go-Ahead).

"Customers have been asking us for iSCSI," says Zane Adam, director of product development and marketing in Microsoft's enterprise storage division. "Our support of the IETF-ratified iSCSI protocol signals the company's focus on making Windows a stronger platform for storage."

Microsoft will provide the iSCSI software driver via a free Web download, and it will be available for Windows 2000 client and server versions, Windows XP client, and the Windows Server 2003 family.In conjunction with drivers for iSCSI, the software giant will also support iSNS (Internet Storage Name Service), which is the device discovery and management protocol associated with iSCSI. The significance of this bit of code is it essentially acts like DNS (Domain Name Service) for IP storage -- providing a discovery and naming service for storage resources and devices within a storage network. Analysts say the availability of discovery and naming services with iSNS may help overcome any resistance within IT circles toward the adoption of IP storage. Its equivalent in the Fibre Channel world is known as SNS (Simple Name Server).

Moving forward, Adam says, "The learning experience from customers will drive us to the next level; it's pretty difficult to see what we will need in later versions at this point." However, he says security and authentication will continue to be an important part of Microsoft's iSCSI strategy.

To date, around 60 independent software vendors (ISVs) and independent hardware vendors (IHVs) are in the planning stages or are developing Windows-based applications and storage hardware products for iSCSI, Microsoft says.

To make sure all this stuff interoperates, Microsoft has created an iSCSI Designed for Windows Logo Program to enable IHVs to qualify their Windows-targeted iSCSI hardware components. The qualification process will begin in June after the availability of the firm's iSCSI drivers.

The list of vendors lining up behind Microsoft's iSCSI beta program is too long to list here, but includes all the major names in the storage industry. The company is encouraging ISVs, IHVs, and end customers to begin their tests of the second beta version of its iSCSI driver when it becomes broadly available later this month. Interested parties can sign up for the beta release at, using the guest ID "iSCSI" (case sensitive)."Microsoft's products will meet the needs of customers for whom connectivity and familiarity with IP are of paramount importance," says James Opfer, chief analyst at Gartner Inc. The research firm estimates that by 2006, iSCSI will connect nearly 1.5 million servers to SANs -- more than any competing technology, including Fibre Channel.

Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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