The vendor, analyst, and trade press communities have been proclaiming The Year of iSCSI since about 2004. We were always incorrect. However, more than four years after the spec was finalized, I think 2008 will truly be the year that iSCSI hits the mainstream and approaches a double-digit share of the SAN market.
But first, a little history. I was (overly) excited about iSCSI at an early stage (around 2001) because it was iSCSI that was the catalyst for Cisco’s entry into our humble storage market. Also, other early cheerleaders in the 2001 to 2002 time frame included IBM and Intel. Seemed like a no-brainer: With that troika behind the technology, I thought that iSCSI would be catapulted into the IT mainstream relatively quickly.
Not so. However, after the iSCSI fervor at Cisco/IBM/Intel cooled off (and Cisco bit the Fibre Channel bullet), my enthusiasm for iSCSI remained intact as a wave of nimble, well-financed (yet sometimes marketing- challenged) start-ups hoisted the flag. The going was slow, in part because the big storage vendors ignored (or, more often, discouraged the use of) iSCSI, mostly to preserve their precious Fibre Channel margins.
Meanwhile, iSCSI got another shot when Microsoft jumped in and promoted the technology, and even provided a free software driver (in 2003). I thought for sure that would be the ultimate catalyst for end-user adoption. But, I was wrong again.
Another milestone was reached when Network Appliance, seeing iSCSI as a nice segue from NAS to SAN, started championing the technology and shipping systems with iSCSI options. All of a sudden, NetApp was the iSCSI market-share leader (although it has always been unclear how many of NetApp’s customers actually use the iSCSI option). The market entry of one of the largest storage vendors should have spurred the iSCSI market but, for the most part, it didn’t.
The most recent event that would suggest iSCSI has hit the big time was Dell’s $1.4 billion acquisition of EqualLogic (covered in our December 2007 issue-see p. 10).
Obviously, iSCSI has finally arrived. But its adoption depends very much on company size. For example, in a recent survey of InfoStor readers-most of which were SMBs-27% had already implemented iSCSI, while another 23% planned to deploy iSCSI within six months, and 36% had no plans for iSCSI. In contrast, in a survey of Fortune 1000 companies, conducted by TheInfoPro research firm, only 16% had implemented iSCSI, and only 8% were either in pilot/evaluation stages or had iSCSI in their near-term plans. And 68% had no plans to implement iSCSI (see figures).
For more information on why-and how-SMBs are embracing iSCSI, see the end-user case studies in our cover story this month, part 1 of which ran in the January issue.