N+I attendees weigh in on storage networking

I was anxious to see the results from a storage networking survey conducted at last month's Networld+Interop show, primarily because it polled networking professionals who may or may not be involved with the storage side of their businesses. In contrast, most storage area network-related surveys poll storage professionals, who may or may not be involved in networking. And that probably explains the survey results.

Attendees were surprisingly unfamiliar with IP storage protocols. For example, 22% "know very little" about iSCSI, while only 6% are "very familiar" with the protocol. Responses were similar for iFCP and FCIP.

In a related question, 11% of the respondents know very little about IP SANs, and only 5% are very familiar with the technology, with the bulk of the responses centered on "somewhat familiar."

About 41% of the respondents had already implemented a Fibre Channel SAN. Not surprisingly, the biggest complaint about Fibre Channel SANs was high cost (23%).

Despite the unfamiliarity with IP storage, the N+I attendees seem likely to embrace iSCSI-based IP SANs. (Remember: These are networking professionals with a natural bias toward TCP/IP.) More than 40% said that, if they were starting from scratch, they would opt for an iSCSI-based IP SAN. Somewhat surprisingly, 34% said they'd go with a mixed topology that included both Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

Of those respondents who are leaning toward IP SANs, the major issues to be addressed are performance (75%), followed by connectivity (61%) and security (53%).

The N+I survey was conducted by the IP Storage Institute and was sponsored by Cisco, InfoStor, Intel, IBM, StoneFly Networks, and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

I'll leave it up to you to draw the conclusions. (I've discussed only a small part of the survey results.) But one thing is certain: Recent news events—most notably Cisco's introduction of an iSCSI storage router that supports Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet (see cover story in this issue)—will drum up more interest in IP storage networking. And it won't just be among storage-centric professionals this time around.

As further evidence of increased interest in IP SANs, a survey of InfoStor readers revealed that 41% of the respondents said they were considering implementing an IP SAN based on iSCSI. Of those, 15% expected to implement it within six months; 30%, within seven to 12 months; and 54% within one to two years.

In this issue: Virtualization
Regardless of what type of storage network you have—or will—implement, you'll eventually need virtualization to simplify management. However, the problem with virtualization is that vendors have stretched the definition of the word almost to the point of "meaninglessness." That's partially due to the fact that virtualization can occur in a variety of places within a storage network. This month's Special Report (see p. 35) delves into this issue in an attempt to get everyone on the same page when it comes to definitions of virtualization.

Dave Simpson,

This article was originally published on June 01, 2002