Net App embraces recent iSCSI specification

Network Appliance Inc. didn’t waste any time last month, announcing support for iSCSI on two existing arrays/file servers just as the protocol was becoming an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) proposed standard.

The iSCSI specification, which was given the go-ahead by the IETF’s governing body, lets SCSI data be transported across IP networks, such as Ethernet. Proponents say iSCSI promises storage networks that are less expensive and more flexible than Fibre Channel-based storage networks.

Network Appliance, in addition to IBM Corp., is among the first major storage suppliers to adopt iSCSI in an array or file server. Other companies, such as Nishan Systems Inc., support the technology in storage routers.

“Network Appliance is enabling a more flexible approach for customers that want to use IP for storage,” says Jamie Gruener, a senior analyst with The Yankee Group. “Having the target environment [the array/file server] ready, should go a long way toward driving iSCSI adoption.”

Network Appliance’s iSCSI support entails free software for its FAS900 and F800 series arrays/file servers, and a US$700 Intel Pro/1000T IP storage adapter to reside in a host server.

One user says he will test iSCSI, which can handle block-level data, as a complement to other protocols such as Network File System (NFS).

“We have some information that can’t run over NFS,” says Joe Bishop, database systems engineer for Titan Averstar, working out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “For users who need SCSI for their low-level Solaris data, we’re looking at iSCSI to get the data to our Net App filer.”

In other Network Appliance news, the company says it has doubled the capacity of its NearStore R150 array to 24 terabytes. The array, which uses inexpensive Advanced Technology Attachment drives, is primarily for storing images that don’t change over time or as a repository for data that has been backed up. The array, which starts at US$250,000 for the 24-terabyte edition, also will now serve as a back-up appliance for storage arrays from other vendors, including EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Hitachi Ltd.