Microsoft became the latest vendor to adopt the iSCSI protocol intended for transporting storage data using Gigabit Ethernet.
The company says it will deliver iSCSI software drivers for Windows 2000 servers and clients, Windows XP clients and the upcoming Windows Server 2003.
The iSCSI protocol runs on top of TCP/IP. It is expected to provide users with a less expensive alternative to storage area networks.
To date, Microsoft claims, as many as 60 software vendors are developing Microsoft-compatible iSCSI products.
Microsoft has initiated an iSCSI Designed for Windows Logo Program, which enables hardware vendors to qualify their products with Microsoft software. Qualification will start this June.
Users can also download beta versions of Microsoft’s iSCSI drivers from BetaPlace, using the guest ID “iSCSI”.
The iSCSI protocol has garnered some followers. Both Hewlett-Packard Co. and Network Appliance Inc. use iSCSI products. HP markets an iSCSI router; Network Appliance supports iSCSI on its line of file servers. QLogic Corp., Alacritech Inc. and Intel Corp. also have iSCSI adapters that fit in a server and connect to iSCSI routers or native-enabled iSCSI storage arrays.
Gartner says that iSCSI, recently approved by the IETF as a draft standard, will connect as many as 1.5 million servers to Fibre Channel storage area network data by 2006.