IBM bets on new storage technology

IBM Corp. this week announced that it plans to begin selling network storage appliances based on an emerging, but still unproven, technology that uses the Internet's basic communications protocol to connect LAN-based end users to corporate data.

IBM claimed that its upcoming TotalStorage 100i and 200i disk arrays will support open storage networking by connecting users to storage-area networks (SAN) and databases using a technology known as iSCSI. The iSCSI approach makes use of TCP/IP, but it has yet to be finalized as a standard by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which is considering it along with other proposed storage standards.

Jim Pertzborn, general manager of storage networking at IBM's storage division, said Wednesday that iSCSI should eventually mature to the point where it's generally accepted by users, much as SAN technology has developed. "The same [thing] will happen over the next two to five years for iSCSI," Pertzborn predicted.

In its initial iSCSI-based offerings, which are due by midyear, IBM is targeting the low-end storage market because of expectations that companies will be wary of trusting the new technology to support important corporate data. Pertzborn said the new devices will be marketed for use in small workgroup applications that don't lend themselves to complicated and expensive SANs.

John Webster, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., said IBM usually is slow to adopt new storage technologies. "[But] now along comes iSCSI, which hasn't even made it out of the standards body, and [IBM's] jumping on it," he said. "This is a new IBM."

IBM is the first major storage vendor to bring iSCSI-based devices to market, said William Hurley, an analyst at Yankee Group Inc. The company also introduced a companion file server, called the TotalStorage 300G, that's designed to act as a bridge between network-attached storage (NAS) devices residing on a LAN and SANs based on Fibre Channel Technology.

Dan Tanner, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, said the combination of the iSCSI-based arrays and the new file server should let IBM users manage NAS devices and SANs with "the same tools [and] the same cadre of people."

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