NetApp Pokes & Prods iSCSI

With adapter certification program, NetApp wants to show that IP SANs are perfectly safe

August 11, 2003

2 Min Read
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Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) -- hoping to convince enterprise customers that its IP SAN technology isn't going to bite them like a crazed cockatiel -- has launched a formal program to certify the operation of third-party iSCSI adapters with its iSCSI storage systems.

So far, adapters from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT) have been OK'd for the NetApp iSCSI protocol stack. NetApp is offering the iSCSI-certification services in conjunction with Medusa Labs, the Austin, Texas-based testing division of Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR) (see NetApp Certifies iSCSI Adapters).

But hold on a minute. One of the advantages of iSCSI, a protocol developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for transmitting block-level storage over IP networks, was supposed to be that such certifications would no longer even be necessary. The idea was that iSCSI adapters would work with iSCSI storage arrays just like standard Ethernet components.

Has iSCSI's simplicity been oversold?

Not according to NetApp, which says the certification program is mainly meant to increase users' comfort level with iSCSI. Because iSCSI is a new technology, customers are looking for a guarantee that different vendors' products have been tested and work together, says NetApp spokeswoman Kris Newton."When it comes to storage networking equipment, customers are expecting certification," she says. Newton adds that the company is not seeing the same level of interoperability issues with iSCSI that it has with Fibre Channel.

About 500 users have downloaded NetApp's iSCSI software since the company launched it in February. The iSCSI software is available for the NetApp F800 and FAS900 storage systems at no charge to customers with software subscription contracts. Separately, NetApp resells Intel's PRO/1000 T IP adapters (see NetApp Blitzes on iSCSI).

The NetApp iSCSI testing program is designed to verify proper functionality and operation between iSCSI initiator and iSCSI target hardware. Medusa Labs, which is charging iSCSI vendors for its testing services, uses Finisar's SAN protocol analysis and test equipment, including error injectors, bit error rate testers, and data generators. Such tests, according to Medusa Labs, verify that the products are up to the "most stringent of data center requirements."

It's another sign that iSCSI-based SANs are slowly starting to filter into real-life production environments. Earlier this summer Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) released the final version of its iSCSI initiator for Windows, and Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL) is including iSCSI support in NetWare 6.5, set to ship this week.

Other big players like EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) have also introduced new iSCSI products recently (see Is EMC Overshooting on iSCSI?, Microsoft Sparks iSCSI Liftoff, Panel: iSCSI Clear for Takeoff, and Cisco Implants IP in SANs).Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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