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IP SANs Get the 'Boot'

A feature that can help iSCSI get a "boot" in the door of enterprise data centers is gaining momentum.

Canadian firm emBoot Inc. is lining up partners for its netBoot/i software, which boots Windows servers from iSCSI disk arrays. This could lead more IT managers to take a serious look at IP SANs when they're consolidating data center resources.

Here's why: Booting from SAN is a feature that allows blade servers to be reconfigured from a SAN, rather than other servers. This cuts down the number of disk-based servers required for disaster recovery and provisioning. Managers can reboot blade servers after an outage right from the storage network, or swap one server for another without halting data access.

Since boot from SAN relies on hardware in blade servers, most ITers have used the feature only for Fibre Channel SANs. Booting from IP SANs calls for iSCSI HBAs, and, while available, those are an added cost that takes away from the overall cost benefit of IP SANs. What's more, to communicate with IP SANs, most servers use a Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) software initiator rather than costly HBAs, and the Microsoft initiator does not support diskless boot.

Enter emBoot. The startup's software, netBoot/I, must first be installed on a Windows server with local hard drive so it can copy the local boot volume to an iSCSI target, or array. After that, netBoot/1 transfers the boot-image file from the iSCSI target to any diskless or disk-based server. The boot-image file can run under any operating system, emBoot claims.

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