IBM (re)-enters iSCSI array market

By Sonia R. Lelii

In mid-2001, IBM became the first major disk subsystem vendor to introduce an iSCSI-based disk array. The 200i was subsequently pulled from the market, reportedly due to performance issues and lack of end-user interest in iSCSI. Last week (three years later), IBM re-entered the market with the introduction of the entry-level TotalStorage DS300, which supports the iSCSI protocol and scales up to 4.2TB.

IBM also introduced the TotalStorage DS400, which supports Fibre Channel connectivity and scales up to 12TB, as well as the midrange DS4000 disk array.

The DS300 and DS400 come in a 3U form factor and can be managed with IBM's ServerRAID management tools. Both arrays are targeted at mid-sized companies with Intel-based Windows/Linux platforms. The DS300 subsystem includes Ultra320 SCSI drives and reliability features such as a battery backup cache and redundant, hot-swappable power supplies.

The iSCSI-based DS300 will compete directly with iSCSI disk arrays from EMC, which are resold by Dell. But IBM claims a price advantage: The DS300 starts at less than $3,000.

However, the iSCSI disk array market is getting crowded. A partial list of other iSCSI subsystem vendors includes Adaptec, American Megatrends Inc. (AMI), EqualLogic, Intransa, LeftHand Networks, Network Appliance, Nimbus Data Systems, Overland Storage, Promise Technology, and Snap Appliance (which was recently acquired by Adaptec).

Both the TotalStorage DS300 and DS400 come in single or dual controller configurations. The single-controller models will be available later this month, and the dual-controller versions are expected in December.

According to IBM officials, the DS4000 brings enterprise-class functions--such as global mirroring and copy functionality--down to the midrange.

"There is a lot of growth in the mid-market," says Rich Lechner, vice president of IBM's Storage Systems Group, "but customers do not want to sacrifice enterprise-class capabilities. We expanded the low end of our portfolio to offer better price/ performance, and we're bringing enterprise-class capabilities to the midrange."

The DS4000 includes upgraded firmware--DS4000 Storage Manager V9.1--a Web-downloadable performance upgrade that provides enhanced remote mirroring (Global Mirror) and copy (Global Copy) functions. The software provides synchronous or asynchronous mirroring. An Enhanced Remote Mirroring feature helps protect data stored on the DS4000 through real-time data replication.

This article was originally published on September 08, 2004