IBM, Intel backing proposed IP-based storage standard

A group of technology vendors, including IBM Corp. and Intel Corp., Monday came out in support of a proposed naming service standard for IP-based storage networks while also announcing planned shipment dates for storage devices that utilize the Internet’s basic communications protocol.

IBM and Intel said they’re backing the Internet Storage Name Service (ISNS) specification as a device discovery and management tool for IP-based storage networks because they believe it will become the leading technology for that task within five years. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) released the most recent draft version of the standard last month.

Like a domain name server, ISNS is designed to work by allowing a server connected to a network to discover storage devices, or “targets,” with which it can communicate. That’s supposed to save IT managers from having to manually configure the addresses required for routing data, a task that isn’t considered feasible on large corporate networks.

Proponents have said the proposed specification would also let users set up their networks so that only certain servers could communicate with different storage devices. The vendors that are co-authoring the standard include Cisco Systems Inc., IBM, and Nortel Networks Corp.

Meanwhile, IBM and San Jose-based Nishan Systems Inc. Monday announced that software supporting the ISNS protocol has been released as open-source code. Nishan developed the software to work with three IP-based storage-switching devices that it recently introduced. IBM’s consulting and services division are reselling the switches.

As part of the announcement by IBM and Nishan, Intel said it plans to enable an IP-based storage adapter that’s currently under development to use device information produced by the iSNS specification. The Pro/1000 IP Storage host bus adapter is scheduled to become available later this year, according to Intel.

The storage-working group within the IETF is also considering several other IP-related standards, including a proposed SCSI over Internet Protocol (iSCSI) specification that IBM is backing (see story). IBM yesterday said its first iSCSI-based disk array, a low-end device called the TotalStorage IP Storage 200i that was detailed in February, will begin shipping in volume this week.

“Our intent is to be the industry leader in iSCSI,” said John Kuhn, the iSCSI development manager at IBM’s storage systems group. “So for us, we’re very heavily involved.” However, Blaine Kohl, marketing director for Intel’s iSCSI unit, said it will probably be late 2003 before iSCSI-based devices take off in a big way and start to challenge storage networking products that support Fibre Channel technology.