iSCSI options proliferate

By Dave Simpson

InfoStor has published dozens of case studies over the last couple of years that have focused on why and how end users are using iSCSI-based IP SANs. In general, it all boils down to the old mantra: “iSCSI is less expensive and easier to manage than Fibre Channel SANs.” In addition, iSCSI is “good enough” for most applications, at least for relatively small Windows configurations in small to medium-sized business (SMB) environments.

Regardless, end-user adoption is picking up rapidly. In an InfoStor QuickVote reader poll, almost a third (31%) of the respondents said they have already implemented iSCSI and another 28% plan to do so within the next year, while 41% have no plans to deploy iSCSI (see figure).

According to Gartner Inc., the iSCSI market will hit $2 billion in 2010. And according to IDC, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for iSCSI revenues will exceed 74% through 2010.

According to analysts, virtual servers are the primary driver behind end-user adoption of iSCSI (see figures on p. 16). (For more information, see “How server virtualization affects storage” and “Benefits of iSCSI and virtual servers” at www.infostor.com.)

The good news for end users and systems/storage integrators is that there are a plethora of products to choose from, ranging from iSCSI software initiators to target devices loaded with storage applications such as point-in-time copy, remote copy, LUN cloning, iSCSI boot, mirroring, snapshots, replication, and other backup/recovery and disaster-recovery applications.

Although most iSCSI sites use initiator software from Microsoft, there are plenty of other free software initiators available for non-Windows operating systems from vendors such as Atto Technology (Mac OS), Cisco (Solaris), Hewlett-Packard (HP-UX), IBM (AIX), Novell (NetWare), Open-E (Linux), and VMware (VMware).

For higher performance (e.g., virtual server environments and high-throughput database applications), iSCSI accelerator cards (adapters) with TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs) are available from vendors such as Alacritech, QLogic, and others.

Virtually every disk array vendor supports iSCSI (sometimes in addition to other protocols such as Fibre Channel, CIFS, and NFS), and iSCSI target software from vendors such as FalconStor Software and Open-E enables users and integrators to convert third-party disk arrays to iSCSI targets.

In addition, multi-protocol gateways from vendors such as Reldata, StoneFly and others enable users/integrators to combine iSCSI and Fibre Channel environments (and, sometimes, NAS) and to leverage existing disk array resources.

With a focus on products targeted primarily at the channel, here’s a quick rundown of some of the iSCSI products that were introduced over the last couple months (companies are listed in alphabetical order):

Advanced Industrial Computer (AIC) is shipping three versions of its XI-316R iSCSI RAID subsystems, which come with four 1Gbps Ethernet ports (for up to 450MBps of bandwidth), eight Gigabit Ethernet ports (890MBps), or one 10Gbps Ethernet port (1,160MBps). All of the models are based on GigaStor controllers and can handle more than 80,000 I/Os per second (IOPS), according to AIC.

Common features of the three XI-316R models include support for Ethernet jumbo frames and a TOE and support for iSNS, VDS, CHAP authentication, virtually all RAID levels, up to eight VLANs, and 1,024 virtual volumes.

agámi Systems added to its line of agami Information Server (AIS) “unified storage systems” with the AIS3006i, an iSCSI RAID array with 6TB of capacity and eight Ethernet ports. The system features applications such as snapshots, replication, and thin provisioning.

The company positions the AIS3006i as a storage consolidation platform for virtualized data centers, with the ability to present up to 1,024 user-configurable LUNs simultaneously distributed over as many as 256 target network addresses.

agámiFSR replication maintains replicas of the contents of iSCSI LUN groups on a remote AIS system. Replication can be augmented with an optional agámiHA high-availability feature that automates fail-over of iSCSI storage services to a secondary AIS system in the event of a disaster.

The AIS3006i also has snapshot capabilities for the automatic capture of time-consistent snaps of iSCSI LUNs for data analysis, backup, or protection against data corruption.

The system uses a 64-bit, four-way SMP kernel to deliver more than 550MBps of streaming read performance over its eight 10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet interfaces. Pricing for the AIS3006i starts at $33,995, including hardware, operating software, and replication.

Arena Maxtronic’s SA-4303S/SA-4503S is a 2U, 12-bay iSCSI-to-SATA RAID array that includes snapshot and rollback technology. The systems support up to 32 snapshots of volumes, and the rollback feature is for restoring snapshots while using the volume for data access. Replication is available via third-party software. The iSCSI arrays support all RAID levels (including RAID 6), the Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP), n-way mirroring, and online volume expansion and RAID level migration.

The latest version of Atto Technology’s Xtend SAN iSCSI initiator is compatible with HP StorageWorks EVA disk arrays in Mac environments. The initiator enables connectivity among Mac platforms, IP networks, and native Fibre Channel storage. Features of the Xtend SAN iSCSI initiator include support for OS X 10.5 (Leopard), Challenge-Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP), Internet Storage Name Service (iSNS), and Login Redirect (which redirects users to their intended targets in situations where the targets are not available at the expected address).

Cutting Edge Technologies’ Modular Storage Solution (MSS) and Integrated Storage Solution (ISS) can be configured as iSCSI and/or NAS devices. Features include dual-core or multi-core 64-bit CPUs, SAS or SATA drives, 1Gbps or 10Gbps Ethernet ports, 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports, up to 72TB of capacity on the ISS or 240TB on the MSS, and the 64-bit EdgeWare operating system.

ExaGrid Systems recently began shipping the iSCSI De-duplication Gateway, which has been tested with Dell EqualLogic PS5000 iSCSI disk arrays. ExaGrid officials claim the combo provides a 30% to 90% reduction in backup and restore times via byte-level data de-duplication, as well as a 10:1 to 50:1 reduction in the amount of disk space required for backups.

Enhance Technology’s UltraStor RS16 IP-4 is a 3U, 16-bay RAID array with four 1Gbps Ethernet/iSCSI ports. The subsystem can be configured with 7,200rpm SATA drives or 10,000rpm SAS drives. Features include a 64-bit Intel RAID engine, up to 2GB of cache, replication and snapshots, optional JBOD expansion units, and support for all RAID levels (as well as JBOD) and Microsoft’s VDS/VSS/MPIO.

FalconStor recently announced that its flagship IPStor virtualization suite is now available unbundled as three separate products: Network Storage Server (NSS), Continuous Data Protector (CDP), and Virtual Tape Library (VTL). In addition to iSCSI, NSS supports Fibre Channel SANs and InfiniBand.

Version 6 of IPStor includes a new feature called thin disaster recovery, or Thin DR, that extends the concept of thin provisioning to data mirroring and replication and eliminates the need for identical storage allocation at the data center and disaster-recovery sites. Thin DR uses the IPStor platform to replicate data to and from any heterogeneous storage array, and the company’s MicroScan technology with data de-duplication and compression minimizes the amount of data transferred at the disk sector level.

Users can create a virtual volume to match the size of each data provisioning request and allocate a smaller amount of actual physical disk space, assigning additional physical space automatically, as needed.

IPStor 6.0 also enables the construction of disk-based data-protection storage appliances using off-the-shelf components to create a virtual appliance integrated with the VMware ESXi virtual server infrastructure. Building a virtual appliance with IPStor lets users/integrators create a virtual backup server for data recovery and business continuity purposes.

This month, FalconStor announced its EZStart Channel Program, which is designed to make it easier for the company’s channel partners—or their end-user customers—to build turnkey appliances based on standard servers from vendors such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun. (The software is also available on FalconStor’s hardware platforms.)

Channel partners can get FalconStor’s VTL, CDP, NSS, or Single Instance Repository (SIR) for de-duplication software loaded on a USB stick and plug it into their server of choice. FalconStor claims the appliance build can be completed in less than 10 minutes. Hardware support is provided by the server vendor.

Hifn differentiates its iSCSI products with built-in, hardware-based, block-level encryption. Its latest product, designed for OEMs and systems/storage integrators, is the Software iSCSI Bundle, which combines the software from Hifn’s Swarm iSCSI appliances with the company’s Express DS 255 encryption (AES256) PCI card. The bundle enables OEMs/integrators to turn third-party disk arrays into iSCSI appliances. In addition to iSCSI, the solution supports NAS protocols in Windows environments. Features include support for on-the-fly volume and capacity expansion, MPIO, VSS snapshots, volume-based remote replication, and integrated backup.

Infortrend’s EonStor (ES) S16E-G1130 is a 3U, 16-bay iSCSI-to-SAS/SATA RAID array with four Gigabit Ethernet ports. The company claims performance of 215MBps on reads and 201MBps on writes in a RAID-5 configuration. Combining four host channels results in performance of 380MBps on reads and 250MBps on writes.

The S16E-G1130 can scale to 80TB with JBOD expansion units and 1TB SATA drives, and the array is available in single- or dual-controller versions. In addition to RAID 5, the array supports RAID 6.

iStor Networks last month began shipping the iS512-10G, a 10Gbps version of its iS512 integraStor iSCSI array. The 10G model is based on iStor’s iSCSI ASIC and provides more than 1,100MBps of full-duplex throughput. The iS512-10G is the second generation of iStor’s 10GbE iSCSI implementations.

JMR Electronics’ eight-bay BlueStor Desktop Storage Server supports DAS and, via Open-E software, iSCSI and NAS configurations. The server includes an x86 platform with 8GB of RAM, SAS or SATA drive bays, and support for a variety of RAID controllers. The system can also be used as a SAS expander JBOD array.

Introduced this month, JMR’s 16-bay BlueStor Storage Server supports DAS, iSCSI, and NAS configurations. The 3U, cable-less system is based on the company’s PeSAN architecture, which uses the PCIe I/O interconnect. Features include SAS/SATA drives, up to 16TB (SATA) or 4.8TB (SAS) of capacity, expansion up to 4,096 drives or more than 4PB, and mounting for a variety of motherboards.

The most recent additions to LeftHand Networks’ iSCSI system lineup are the NSM 2060 and NSM 4150, both of which are based on the company’s SAN/iQ clustered storage software. Applications included at no additional charge are thin provisioning, snapshots, distributed clustering, synchronous and asynchronous replication, and volume migration and cloning. SAN/iQ runs on x86 platforms and virtual servers.

The 2U NSM 2060 is available in three six-drive configurations: a 1.8TB version with 15,000rpm SAS drives, and 3TB and 4.5TB configurations with SATA drives.

The 4U NSM 4150 is available in three 15-drive configurations: a 4.5TB version with 15,000rpm SAS drives, and 7.5TB and 11.25TB versions with SATA drives.

Rasilient’s latest entries in the iSCSI space include the Rastor 3500, 7500, and 8500. The single-controller 3500 has iSCSI or SAS host connections and up to 12 SATA drives. The 7500 has iSCSI or SAS host connections, SAS or SATA drives, one or two controllers, snapshots, and expansion up to 60 drives via expansion enclosures; and the dual-controller 8500 has iSCSI or SAS connections, SAS/SATA drives, snapshots, optional 4Gbps Fibre Channel or 10Gbps iSCSI connectivity, and scalability up to 96 SAS/SATA drives.

Additional features include multi-core controllers, a 64-bit operating system, and support for RAID-0/1/5/6/10. Rasilient claims performance of up to 500MBps, or 62,000 IOPS, on the Rastor 7500 in a RAID-5 configuration. The 7500 and 8500 are priced at about $650 per terabyte.

One of Reldata’s most recent introductions in the iSCSI space is a disaster-recovery solution that replicates Fibre Channel SAN data over IP networks to a remote iSCSI SAN without disrupting the production environment. The solution entails adding a Reldata 9240 Unified Storage Gateway for either local or WAN replication. The gateway has a Fibre Channel target that connects to a Fibre Channel SAN. At the remote suite, users implement a 9240 gateway with low-cost SATA disk drives. The remote site can be monitored and managed from the primary site.

Reldata has also announced that its 9240 gateways—which support iSCSI SANs, NAS, and WAN replication—have been qualified with Citrix XenServer virtualization environments.

Last month, StoneFly added encryption (AES256 and iSCSI volume-based encryption) to its Integrated Storage Concentrator (ISC) line of IP SAN systems. Features include secure key generation and removable key storage. StoneFly’s ISCs are available in four configurations with 4, 8, 16, or 24 SATA drives for a maximum capacity of up to 24TB. The encryption option is priced at $2,500 per ISC.

This month, StoneFly upgraded its StoneFusion operating software. Version 6.1 updates include support for 10,000rpm and 15,000rpm SAS drives (in addition to SATA drives); improved asynchronous replication in the company’s Reflection remote mirroring software; support for SNMP and SAN boot functionality; and performance improvements for virtual server environments.

This article was originally published on July 01, 2008