DataCore enables iSCSI remote boot

By Ann Silverthorn

—DataCore Software and emBoot introduced a solution this week that allows administrators to remotely boot Windows servers off an iSCSI-based IP SAN using standard Ethernet network interface cards (NICs). The combination uses DataCore's SANmelody or SANsymphony software along with emBoot's netBoot/i software and eliminates the need for local, internal disk drives.

George Teixeira, DataCore's CEO and president, says that the company has made inroads into blade server and VMware-based server farm environments. "A lot of those administrators want to keep costs down," says Teixeira. "The servers already have Ethernet on them, and with DataCore's software you can boot from wherever you want and have a SAN over Ethernet."

Two main benefits of the solution involve disaster-recovery improvements and cost savings. The solution enables administrators to "emergency-boot" a server from the SAN if a physical boot should fail. Cost savings are realized from simplified management derived from diskless remote booting.

If a system crash occurs, the application server's BIOS can boot from a SANmelody or SANsymphony-based IP-SAN's virtual boot disk. This is done using standard Ethernet NICs, eliminating the need for local, internal disk drives and host bus adapters (HBAs). Administrators create a snapshot of a single netBoot/i boot volume and copy the volume to multiple iSCSI targets, so that when needed they can boot from the IP SAN and be operational in minutes.

As administrators create a snapshot of a single netBoot/i boot volume and then copy the volume to multiple iSCSI targets, servers and their storage devices can be available in minutes. netBoot/i has been tested on VMware Workstation and GSX and ESX servers, as well as with Microsoft's Virtual PC and Virtual Server.

DataCore claims to lower operating costs through centralized data consolidation and enabling assignment of blade servers to remote applications. By booting servers from the SAN, storage management and provisioning is simplified by separating the operating system data from the hardware, eliminating the need for a boot disk on the server or on a blade. It also eliminates the costs associated with Fibre Channel SANs.

The cost of Fibre Channel components, such as HBAs and switches, can discourage users from implementing SANs, according to Teixeira. "Many users want to deploy SANs over Ethernet for economy. If they have to buy Fibre Channel components they're just adding cost into the equation."

Features of the DataCore-emBoot combo include:

  • Diskless network boot of Windows operating systems;
  • Boot from a shared volume;
  • Network boot to iSCSI target from within VMware and Microsoft Virtual PC virtual machines;
  • Support for CHAP authentication; and
  • System snapshot tool for copying local boot volume to iSCSI target.

A number of recent end-user surveys indicate that the market for iSCSI-based SANs is finally starting to pick up steam. For example, in a Citigroup survey of 100 Fortune 1000 CIOs conducted last month, 21.5% of the respondents had already budgeted for iSCSI deployments and 27.5% are in the evaluation phase, although 51% of the respondents had no plans to deploy iSCSI within the next 12 to 18 months (see Survey suggests iSCSI growth).

This article was originally published on September 01, 2005