By Lisa Coleman
After three years of fits and starts and false expectations, some analysts predict that 2004 will finally be The Year of iSCSI. Although end-user adoption is still miniscule, the rate of iSCSI product introductions is picking up, mostly from relatively new players. Two of the more recent iSCSI introductions came from SANRAD and Xiran (and Adaptec is expected to introduce external iSCSI disk arrays next week).
SANRAD's V-Switch 2000 is a dual-port iSCSI gateway for IP connectivity that targets the midrange IP SAN market. The 2000 allows the company to compete with other IP SAN startups such as EqualLogic, Intransa, LeftHand Networks, and StoneFly Networks, according to Zophar Sante, vice president of market development at SANRAD.
The switches can connect to Fibre Channel or SCSI storage systems on the back-end and to hosts on the front-end via an IP network. The switches work with any vendor's storage subsystems, according to Sante.
SANRAD began shipping the V-Switch 2000 this week, and like its high-end counterpart--the V-Switch 3000--the 2000 offers clustering, volume management, virtualization, and security features.
The 2000 interoperates with nine different iSCSI initiators and includes integrated RAID functionality. The switch also features fail-over and continual monitoring of all key components.
The switch comes with the StoragePro software suite for managing IP SANs. Pricing starts at $12,000.
Around mid-year, SANRAD plans to release a family of remote replication services for its switches.
Irvine, CA-based Xiran recently introduced the DPA-1400 iSCSI+ Accelerator, an iSCSI target and/or initiator host bus adapter (HBA). However, the DPA-1400 is being sold to OEMs primarily for iSCSI target devices.
While there are a variety of iSCSI initiator products available today--including software drivers, HBAs, and NICs--the market focus is now shifting to iSCSI targets, according to Mark Woithe, director of marketing for IP storage at Xiran.
"Most initiator products do not perform well as targets," claims Woithe. "In fact, we've seen up to a 60% performance degradation [based on internal tests conducted by Xiran]."
Xiran hopes to differentiate its board from competitors via a relatively low price (although target pricing has not yet been established) and its DirectPath Engine technology, which the company claims enables higher performance.
DirectPath hardware performs dedicated operations traditionally handled by server operating systems for I/O-intensive operations, including iSCSI processing, according to Xiran officials.
DirectPath provides TCP termination and processes TCP/IP and iSCSI packets with low (if any) CPU utilization, according to Woithe. In target tests, Xiran claims wire-speed performance and a throughput rate of 30,000 I/Os per second per port with a CPU utilization rate of 0%. The host CPU is only used to load the firmware to the DirectPath hardware.
The 1400 provides iSCSI connectivity to existing storage devices. "We're enabling VARs, integrators, and OEMs to build low-cost iSCSI targets using existing targets and infrastructures," says Woithe.
The DPA-1400 combines a dual Gigabit Ethernet NIC, full offloading of TCP/IP and iSCSI protocol processing, and up to 256MB of buffer memory on a 133MHz PCI-X card. It supports Windows 2000/XP and Red Hat Linux 7.2 and is currently sampling to OEMs.