Intel announces iSCSI network interface card

Intel Corp. said yesterday it is manufacturing a SCSI-over-IP (iSCSI) host bus adapter card that one analyst said will go a long way toward building industrywide momentum behind less-expensive and more easily managed storage-area networks (SAN).

The host bus adapter, an I/O adapter that normally rests between the host computer's bus and a Fibre Channel loop, manages the transfer of information between two channels. The Intel PRO/1000T IP Storage Adapter rests between the host and a Gigabit Ethernet loop, freeing up server CPU cycles by taking over the TCP/IP stack processing for the server.

"This is just a foundation for the market. Products and customers are going to start testing them out. I think it's a good time to introduce this, and it's an important move," said Jamie Gruener, an analyst at the Yankee Group Inc. in Boston. "And it's significant in that it's Intel."

During initial tests of the iSCSI adapter card, throughput on a SAN set up by Intel was measured at 300M bit/sec. to 700M bit/sec., using only 3 percent to 5 percent server processor capacity. That compared with a typical Ethernet adapter with a Pentium III chip, which used 100 percent of a server's CPU capacity.

The only caveat is that there are few target devices with which the host bus adapter can currently interact because iSCSI remains in the early deployment stage. IBM Corp. last year released an iSCSI RAID storage device, and Cisco Systems Inc. began shipping an iSCSI router.

The Internet Engineering Task Force is expected to come out with an iSCSI specification and protocol by June.

"We do see iSCSI in this stage as a workgroup or departmental-type solution right now," said Blaine Kohl, Intel's director of marketing for high-end servers at Intel's LAN Access Division.

Alacritech Inc. in San Jose announced last week that it, too, had created an "integrated storage" network interface card that it used in its Gigabit Ethernet server.

Paul Mattson, manager for IP SAN at IBM Storage Systems Group and co-chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Association's IP Storage Forum, said, "We expect customers that combine the power of the IBM TotalStorage 200i and Intel's new adapter to realize significantly reduced processor utilization."

The storage adapter has been released to manufacturing and will be available next month for the suggested list price of US$695, or $3,125 in a pack of five, Kohl said.

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