iSCSI Brings Lower-Cost Storage Networks

Internet SCSI, or iSCSI, was designed to offer the advantages of storage consolidation, without the headache of Fibre Channel devices and cabling, by enabling block-level data delivery over IP networks.

"Companies should be running, not walking, to iSCSI," says Steve Duplessie, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "The payback is so strong and so fast that enterprises will look silly if they wait. And iSCSI is driving prices down for [Fibre Channel] networks."

One convert is Denver Health Medical Center. Its IT environment consists of 16 buildings connected via Gigabit Ethernet, 22 community health clinics connected via Sonet, 166 clustered servers (125 Windows, 20 Unix and various others) and two SANs -- a Fibre Channel SAN and an IP SAN.

"We found FC SANs to be expensive to implement, and they required specialized training and technicians," says Jeff Pelot, chief technology officer at Denver Health. "An IP SAN is so much more affordable, and implementing one is like building something with Lego."

Pelot says he doesn't think his facility requires FC buildout, especially now that IP technology has matured. However, Denver Health fully intends to maintain its existing SAN. With the infrastructure in place, it makes no sense to eliminate it. Instead, the facility chose to expand its storage platform with an IP SAN from LeftHand Networks.

Glenn Exline, manager of advanced technology for the Air Force's 45th Space Wing, points out that the big advantage of a Fibre Channel SAN is that it removes storage and backup traffic from the network. By doing so, his organization sped up its existing network.

"Allowing user access to the same data network that is harnessed for storage is a big mistake," says Exline.

However, Pelot says that performance turned out to be far less of a problem than many feared. "Although I/O is very slightly down compared to the FC SAN, the users have never noticed the difference," he says.

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