By Kevin Komiega
—Microsoft announced last week that it has acquired iSCSI target software from start-up String Bean Software and plans to offer the technology as an add-on to the Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 platform. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
String Bean's WinTarget is iSCSI target software designed for the Windows platform. Windows and other operating systems come with native iSCSI initiator drivers, and storage systems that support the iSCSI protocol provide a target driver that has been tested and qualified with the server-based iSCSI initiator. SANs using iSCSI require an initiator on the host and a driver or target on a storage array.
WinTarget's value is in its ability to enable a hybrid storage mode on Windows Storage Server, giving users the ability to serve both block-level (SAN) and file-level (NAS) data on one box.
According to Dr. Claude Lorenson, group product manager for storage at Microsoft, one of Microsoft's goals is to offer an iSCSI target that has the look and feel of Windows and works with all of the management tools that its customers are familiar with. With the acquisition of the WinTarget technology, he says, Microsoft has achieved that goal.
"WinTarget was originally designed to work with Windows, has Virtual Shadow Copy Service and Virtual Disk Service providers, integrates with Microsoft Multipath IO, and it was already qualified under Microsoft's certification program," says Lorenson. "We have had a global license with String Bean for WinTarget for over a year. Now we're closing the loop."
So why buy versus build? The main reason Microsoft acquired WinTarget is that it has already been accepted by the market.
"Microsoft and String Bean already had a good relationship and there was no need for Microsoft to reinvent the wheel when there was already a good product out there," says Stephanie Balaouras, a senior analyst with Forrester Research Inc.
There are a handful of software vendors in addition to String Bean that offer iSCSI target software that is compatible with the Windows platform, including FalconStor Software, RocketDivision Software, Wasabi Systems, SBE, and Open-E.
Balaouras believes Microsoft tapped String Bean because the software was tightly integrated with Windows.
Microsoft says it will not sell WinTarget as a stand-alone software product, but plans to release the technology with Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 for an additional fee. "WinTarget will not be a shrink-wrapped product. There will be a cost beyond the regular Windows Storage Server license and we will be offering two versions of the software in the form of a standard and an enterprise edition," says Lorenson.
WinTarget will be available as an add-on for Storage Server in the coming months.
String Bean Software is not transferring any of its customer or channel agreements to Microsoft, but Microsoft will assist String Bean in meeting its obligations to customers who are within their initial support period. However, Microsoft has also hired three of String Bean's four employees to work in Microsoft's storage group.