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iSCSI: Where Credit Is Due

With servers proliferating like crazy and backups taking the better part of eight hours, it was time for the SCE Federal Credit Union in Irwindale, Calif., to mothball a network-attached storage system that had outlived its usefulness.

Email backup and archiving were eating up lots of time and capacity, as was a move to an optical system for storing images of member profiles. And while there was nothing wrong with the Dell NAS the credit union had in place, it was clear that growth required them to buy more of the same gear or go to some sort of networked storage approach, according to Jeff Johnson, network administrator at SCE.

As in many enterprises, it was an inflection point,” an analyst term that roughly translates as “time to upgrade.” And like many other customers, the credit union faced the usual price vs. performance conundrum. Where networked storage is concerned, that typically leads to a Fibre Channel vs. iSCSI and IP SAN decision.

The six-branch SCE may have 42,000 members and assets of $350 million, but the credit union is careful about how it spends. So the IT department did the due diligence and looked at Fibre Channel as well as two different iSCSI options -- one from LeftHand Networks and the other from StoneFly Networks. But Johnson says he was turned off by the proprietary iSCSI protocol LeftHand uses, and the upfront costs of Fibre Channel were a little too dear. A source at LeftHand acknowledged that the vendor once relied on the AEBS protocol in its equipment, but added that the vendor has been compliant with the iSCSI standard for more than a year.

“Anything we looked at in the Fibre Channel realm was $250,000, plus the extra layer of fiber [cable] that we were looking to avoid, both from a cost and ongoing management perspective," Johnson says. “Plus we already had the IP infrastructure with our Cisco gigabit Ethernet [backbone].”

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