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iSCSI & Virtualization: Happy Union or Mismatch?

Users' iSCSI deployments are going through the roof, with more and more firms seeking a cheaper alternative to Fibre Channel, but a question mark hangs over the technology's virtualization story.

A report released this week by analyst firm R.W. Baird found that both virtualization and iSCSI are growing in popularity among cost-conscious CIOs and IT managers. Some 90 percent of 101 respondents surveyed by Baird are using some form of virtual infrastructure, and more than half of surveyed firms have either deployed, or will deploy, iSCSI.

Despite this uptick, users are still working through the economics of iSCSI, according to R.W. Baird analyst Daniel Renouard. "Some end-users noted the cost advantage of iSCSI is not as great with server virtualization due to improved utilizations," he wrote in the survey summary, alluding to the fact that the cost savings of iSCSI could obviate the need for virtualization.

Other analysts are more bullish on the benefits of joint iSCSI/virtualization deployments. "We believe that iSCSI will be a preferred storage protocol to support the back-end storage in virtualized server environments," explained Brad Nisbet, program manager of storage systems at IDC, in an email to Byte and Switch this week. "We like Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic, who has done an excellent job at developing an iSCSI solution for this."

iSCSI, which is increasingly being touted by vendors as an alternative to Fibre Channel, has been gaining momentum over recent months. Increasingly, the technology is being pushed as a way for users to reap the benefits of emerging technologies such as 10-Gbit/s Ethernet.

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