Alacritech accelerates iSCSI

Last week, Alacritech released its SES1001 iSCSI accelerator card, which speeds up Microsoft's iSCSI initiator software via hardware ASICs. To spice up the competitive matrix--and controversy--in the iSCSI market, Alacritech commissioned VeriTest (the testing division of Lionbridge) to conduct performance testing of the Alacritech card versus competing cards from Adaptec and Intel. The results are available at www.veritest.com/clients/reports/alacritech/

Alacritech was one of the original developers of TCP/IP offload engine (TOE) cards. The SES1001 can carry TCP/IP-Ethernet traffic, but does not accelerate Ethernet traffic. As such, the SES1001 is referred to as an iSCSI host bus adapter (HBA), as opposed to a TOE network interface card (TOE NIC, or T-NIC).

According to VeriTest's benchmarks, Alacritech's iSCSI accelerators provide better performance than competing cards at a lower price. With a 10/100/1000 Ethernet twisted-pair interface, the card lists at $599. A version with a 1000Base-SX fiber interface is priced at $799.

Analysts predict that most early adopters of iSCSI will eschew accelerator cards and use Microsoft's free iSCSI software initiators with standard, inexpensive Ethernet NICs. However, Joe Gervais, Alacritech's director of product marketing, notes that that approach "won't provide scalability as users' storage requirements grow. They may have to migrate to an accelerator, and we enable them to continue to use the Microsoft initiator."

Based on the results of the VeriTest benchmarks, Alacritech's iSCSI accelerator provides a 512-byte bi-directional throughput rate of 47,690 operations per second and a 512-byte read rate of 46,001 operations per second. Additional features include Ethernet link aggregation and fail-over. (The company claims that the card can recover from link failures in less than 10 seconds.)

The SES1001 is compatible with iSCSI products from vendors such as Cisco, EqualLogic, FalconStor Software, Intransa, McDATA, and SANRAD.

According to recent surveys, interest in--if not adoption of--iSCSI is picking up steam. For example, in a survey of InfoStor's readers, 7.1% said that they have already implemented iSCSI; 10.9% plan to implement an iSCSI SAN in the next six months; 19.2% will deploy an iSCSI SAN in the next 6 to 12 months; while 62.8% have to plans to implement iSCSI.

This article was originally published on March 10, 2004