Bright future in store for new storage protocol

Storage is growing in leaps and bounds, but the storage technology with the potential to bound ahead of all the rest is iSCSI, according to Network Appliance co-founder and executive vice-president Dave Hitz.

Hitz sat down with IT World Canada’s editorial team this week to discuss what he sees as the biggest storage trends in 2005.

iSCSI is a storage protocol, standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force, that enables the transmission of blocks of storage data over IP networks. The technology is generally seen as an alternative to Fibre Channel storage. But Hitz doesn’t believe iSCSI’s growth will necessarily come at the expense of Fibre Channel.

“iSCSI is not about competing with Fibre Channel,” he said. “It’s about enabling the next big wave of conversion from direct-attached storage to networked storage.”

iSCSI isn’t as fast as Fibre Channel, nor is it as reliable or mature. But it is a lot less expensive to install and manage than Fibre Channel.

“You send people off for Fibre Channel classes and you have to pay them extra when they get back and then a competitor hires them away for even more money and you have to start over,” Hitz said.

In contrast, iSCSI is supported by Microsoft and iSCSI certification is part of Microsoft’s Windows Certification Lab. Since it’s IP-based, it’s easier for the average network professional to understand than Fibre Channel.

Fibre Channel will be used primarily for mission-critical applications, Hitz believes. iSCSI will complement Fibre Channel by supporting applications that don’t require a high degree of uptime.

“For example, a lot of people aren’t running SAN-based Exchange or SAN-based SQL Server,” Hitz said.

Ultimately, Hitz believes Fibre Channel will follow the path set by mainframe computers.

“People have been predicting the death of the mainframe forever and it just won’t die,” he said. “Not only won’t it die, but the market keeps growing.”

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