IP SAN activity picks up

By Lisa Coleman

The IP storage area network (SAN) market is still in its infancy, but a number of smaller vendors recently debuted new devices and expanded existing products with performance upgrades and more functionality. Analysts expect the competition to really heat up early next year.

International Data Corp. (IDC) predicts that worldwide sales of iSCSI disk arrays will skyrocket from about $28 million this year to more than $3 billion in 2007, representing a 227% compound annual growth rate.

A handful of smaller vendors—such as Elipsan, EqualLogic, Intransa, LeftHand Networks, SANRAD, and StoneFly Networks—continue to crank up the feature sets on their IP SAN products, most of which are based on the iSCSI protocol (see "Low cost lures users to IP SANs," InfoStor, October 2003, p. 1). And larger vendors such as EMC and Network Appliance are also supporting iSCSI.

One of the more recent entrants is UK-based Elipsan, which recently announced its iSCSI storage appliance software and IP SAN management software. The company is a spin-off of the IP SAN division of Eurologic Systems and is headed by Eurologic founder Hans O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan claims that Elipsan has licensed its software to two OEMs, although he declined to name them due to the terms of the agreements. However, he expects the OEMs to formally announce products this quarter.

Elipsan's iSCSI Storage Appliance software provides storage consolidation, virtualization, RAID functionality, remote mirroring (synchronous and asynchronous), and snapshot capability. The software works with Elipsan's Shared Storage Manager software, which integrates storage controller management and management of storage subsystems of file and application servers.

"We're making IP SANs as easy to use as network-attached storage [NAS]," O'Sullivan claims. While ease of use, installation, and management are inherent in NAS, those features are not necessarily intrinsic with IP SANs.

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Elipsan's appliance software runs on Intel-based hardware and supports ATA, Serial ATA, Fibre Channel, and SCSI disk drives. The appliance virtualizes drives connected to it and communicates via iSCSI over Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards (NICs) on the front-end of an appliance. The management software is an agent that resides on servers connected to an IP SAN and also manages initiators, access controls, targets, and security.

The appliance architecture will include 1.3GHz Pentium 3 processors for line-speed performance (reads and writes) over Gigabit Ethernet NICs without TCP/IP offload, says O'Sullivan. "Some of our competitors claim that they can deliver line-speed performance, but to do so they need specialized hardware such as TCP/IP offload engines," he adds.

Sullivan expects OEM pricing to fall into the $20,000 to $30,000 range for a 3TB unit that includes Elipsan's software.

StoneFly Networks recently began shipping the Storage Concentrator i3000, its next-generation fail-over cluster appliance for IP SANs. The Storage Concentrator is an iSCSI bridge/router with a built-in storage-provisioning engine and management software.

The i3000 has higher performance than the predecessor i1500 and includes a new mirroring feature for local and remote replication, says Bob Preston, vice president of marketing for StoneFly.

The Storage Concentrator includes a 3GHz Xeon processor, two Gigabit Ethernet ports for load balancing of I/O traffic, and six ports that can be mixed and matched in any combination (iSCSI, SCSI, Fibre Channel).

StoneFly also added local and remote replication (synchronous and asynchronous) to the i3000. Replication can occur between any storage devices.

"Many replication solutions are part of a storage subsystem. By putting replication on the Storage Concentrator we've removed mirroring from the subsystem, so you have any-to-any mirroring," says Preston.

Pricing starts at $19,995 for a pair of i3000 appliances, including 1TB of ATA disk capacity and an iSCSI initiator. A single i3000 unit is priced at $13,995.

Last month, Intransa introduced an entry-level option for its IP5000 subsystem. The configuration includes eight drives with 2TB, a controller, and management software for $44,300. The company also increased the capacity of its original 16-drive IP5000 device to 4TB ($54,300) and added Windows server clustering support.

LeftHand Networks added Linux support to its Network Storage Module (NSM) 200 IP SAN product, which was introduced last month. The company also announced that it would support iSCSI and add remote replication (see "LeftHand Networks adds IP SAN options," InfoStor, October 2003, p. 12). LeftHand plans to support RedHat Enterprise Linux AS 2.1 and SuSE 8.0 in its SAN/iq distributed storage matrix (DSM) software.

This article was originally published on November 01, 2003