Spectra Logic Pulls iSCSI Trigger

Tape library vendor preps IP SAN support, but is anybody ready for it yet?

March 29, 2003

3 Min Read
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Spectra Logic Corp. is bragging that it expects to be the first tape library vendor to support iSCSI, but it hasn't lined up any customers -- or even beta customers -- that are using it yet, underscoring the relative immaturity of IP SANs.

The company plans to ship iSCSI support for its Spectra 2K, 20K, and 64K automated tape backup libraries on April 14. "We see this as an evolving market," says Sharon Isaacson, a product manager at Spectra Logic. "We're doing this for early adopters who want to play with iSCSI." [Ed. note: In their copious amounts of spare time.]

In another sign of how new this stuff is, Spectra Logic hasn't run any performance tests on its iSCSI implementation yet, although Isaacson believes it won't be as fast as its FC or SCSI interfaces. "Definitely, you're going to see some speed decrease over Fibre Channel," she says. Neither has the company tested iSCSI backups running over an IP WAN, although Isaacson says this is "on the roadmap."

To obtain iSCSI support, Spectra Logic customers that already have a Spectra 20K or 64K library must buy a G2 E-QIP Gigabit Ethernet card ($9,400 list price), which will support either iSCSI or the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) for NAS backup. The company expects to charge an additional $500 to $700 for the iSCSI option.

Isaacson notes that on the high-end 20K and 64K libraries, customers will be able to mix and match Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and SCSI interfaces. The interfaces for the lower-end Spectra 2K library are factory-installed and cannot be changed.Backup has been cited as one of the key initial applications for iSCSI, since the protocol allows block-level storage access without the distance limitations of Fibre Channel or SCSI. Other tape vendors have demonstrated iSCSI connectivity, most notably Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS), which has had iSCSI projects cooking for at least a year and a half (see iSCSI Travels 7,500 Miles, Quantum|ATL Forges Ahead on iSCSI , ATTO Takes iSCSI to Tape, and Okapi Demos iSCSI Backup).

In just the past two months, iSCSI has gathered a good deal of momentum, with the official ratification of the spec by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and large vendors like Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) throwing their weight behind it (see IP SANs: Coming of Age, Microsoft to Unleash iSCSI, LSI Lines Up iSCSI Mates, EqualLogic Tallies $15M, Silverback Makes iSCSI Howl, NetApp Blitzes on iSCSI, and iSCSI Gets Go-Ahead).

But not everyone believes the day has come for iSCSI just yet. "You can't just plug into an IP network and you're off and running. That's just hooey," says Steve Whitner, director of marketing at tape library supplier Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC). "People are going to have to make sure all the right pieces are in place. There's still some industry building to go on."

Whitner expects the iSCSI market to start to coalesce around the end of the year, which is when ADIC expects to support iSCSI.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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