iSCSI Camp Focuses on Interoperability

By Dave Simpson

Even though formal standards may not be finalized until the end of the year, the iSCSI vendor community will hold its first interoperability "plugfest" July 17-18 at the University of New Hampshire. The event will be co-sponsored by UNH's iSCSI Consortium and the Storage Networking Industry Association's (SNIA) iSCSI Group.

iSCSI is an emerging standard that will enable the transport of SCSI I/O traffic over standard IP networks, such as Gigabit Ethernet.

Anywhere from 10 to 30 vendors are expected to take place in the first interoperability plugfest, according to Jim Bernard, interoperability chair for SNIA's iSCSI Group and director of strategic development for Adaptec's Storage Networking Group. Products to be tested include iSCSI host bus adapters, disk arrays, and switches/routers.

The UNH iSCSI Consortium is focused primarily on "wire-level" interoperability testing, and is developing a set of interoperability test suites. SNIA will focus primarily on SAN-level testing, according to Bernard. Later this year, testing is expected to shift to SNIA's Technology Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

According to Bernard and others, the iSCSI community is intent on avoiding one of the major problems that plagued the Fibre Channel SAN community: lack of interoperability between different vendors' products. And iSCSI proponents believe that solving iSCSI interoperability problems will be easier and quicker than with Fibre Channel, in part because iSCSI is based on the TCP/IP transport.

"iSCSI is based on stable, mature and ubiquitous standards -- including TCP/IP, Ethernet and SCSI -- that are well-known to a lot of players," says Bernard. "The only thing that's new is that SCSI commands get encapsulated in packets that move over TCP/IP, and as a new element that's relatively minor. This is in contrast to Fibre Channel."

Although end users applaud the interoperability testing, their main question is: "When will we be able to build end-to-end iSCSI SANs?" Bernard says that, for some applications, end users will be able to build iSCSI SANs in the next calendar year. "Those applications would be those where it's ok to have physical isolation of storage and network traffic," he says.

This article was originally published on June 06, 2001