IP SAN costs less than 2 cents per MB

By Dave Simpson

One of the long-standing promises of IP storage area networks (SANs) based on the iSCSI protocol has been low cost compared to Fibre Channel SANs. But few companies have actually backed up those claims to date. Start-up Intransa Inc., in San Jose, CA, hopes to change that next month when it begins shipments of a bundled IP SAN that costs less than two cents per MB.

A 3.2TB IP5000 configuration is priced at $62,500 and includes two SC5100 storage controllers with Gigabit Ethernet-to-ATA converters and two DE5200 ATA-based disk arrays (based on enclosures from Xyratex and ATA drives from Maxtor) connected via a Layer 2 Gigabit Ethernet switch (see figure). The controllers and arrays are independent of each other to enable users to increase performance and/or capacity without disrupting applications. The clustered configuration can scale to 10TB in the initial implementation.

The IP5000 IP SAN system includes dual storage controllers and RAID arrays connected via a standard Gigabit Ethernet switch.
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The IP5000 is currently limited to Intransa's disk arrays, but John Howarth, director of product marketing, says that the company will support other vendors' iSCSI disk arrays in the future.

But analysts say that Intransa's real differentiator may be in its bundled software, which includes self-healing and self-managing features as well as applications such as "drag-and-drop" virtual volume management, mirroring, snapshots (up to eight), storage virtualization, and policy-based management applications. The IP5000 also includes discovery, fault management, and fail-over functionality. All software is included in the bundled configuration. Operating system support includes Windows and Linux.

Although all of the major server/storage vendors are expected to enter the IP SAN market later this year with iSCSI-based disk arrays, Intransa will initially compete with other start-ups such as EqualLogic, which is also expected to launch an iSCSI system in the June time frame (see "EqualLogic readies iSCSI disk array," InfoStor, March 2003, p. 11).

Another early competitor in this market is Elipsan, which was spun out of Eurologic Systems prior to Adaptec's acquisition of Eurologic in March. At last month's Storage Networking World conference, Elipsan (Bristol, UK) demonstrated an IP SAN configuration based on the company's iCS2100 iSCSI disk arrays. The iSCSI RAID system includes applications such as storage virtualization, snapshots, and remote mirroring.

Although users can equip servers in an Intransa IP SAN with host cards that offload TCP/IP and iSCSI processing, Howarth says that iSCSI software drivers will provide sufficient performance for most applications, especially in the low-end and midrange market that the company is targeting. iSCSI drivers are available from vendors such as IBM, Cisco, and Microsoft. For higher performance, users may need iSCSI-TCP/IP offload cards, and Intransa has tested its system with iSCSI initiators from vendors such as Adaptec, Alacritech, Emulex, Intel, and QLogic.

The IP5000 will be available from a small number of VARs. The first to sign up was InterVision Systems Technologies, in Santa Clara, CA.

(For more information about iSCSI, see "iSCSI gains a toehold in SAN market," InfoStor, April 2003.)

This article was originally published on May 01, 2003