Storage Soup

Oct 2 2008   10:43AM GMT

iSCSI’s $360M vote of confidence

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

All the talk about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) over the last year has raised questions about the future of iSCSI storage once the convergence of FC and Ethernet takes place.

But Hewlett-Packard’s $360 million acquisition of LeftHand Networks proves that HP agrees with its rival Dell that iSCSI SANs are here to stay. Dell paid $1.4 billion for LeftHand’s iSCSI rival EqualLogic in January, and has ridden a mini-wave of iSCSI adoption: IDC said second-quarter iSCSI revenue grew 93.9 percent over last year.

While the acquisitions bring Dell and HP another storage platform and some product positioning issues, the vendors seem willing to let FC remain the dominant protocol at the high end while iSCSI adoption spikes among SMB and midrange shops due to growing interest in server virtualization  and 10-Gig Ethernet. 

Representatives of HP and Dell agree that history indicates FCoE adoption will be slow.

 “The iSCSI standard was ratified in 2003, and here weare in 2008 just getting traction,” HP StorageWorks CTO Paul Perez says. “I think FCoE will follow a similar adoption curve and adoption will be slow. iSCSI will have a prominent place, especially with 10-Gig Ethernet. FCoE is a performance fabric, while iSCSI is a general purpose fabric.”

Dell vice president of marketing John Joseph, who was with EqualLogic before the acquisition, says iSCSI finally has momentum.

“Migration on and off technologies by storage customers is extremely slow,” he said. “It’s a helluva lot slower than watching paint dry. Typical adoption curves are measured in five-to-seven-year increments. We’re still in the early years of [iSCSI’s] adoption phase.”

Joseph says while he expects many FC SANs to migrate to FCoE, Data Center Ethernet and 10-gig Ethernet will erode the FC base and lead more storage shops to iSCSI.

“Ten-gigE makes a lot of objections [to iSCSI] go away, and Data Center Ethernet makes even more objections go away,” he said.

3  Comments on this Post

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  • Steven Schwartz
    I think the difference between FCoE and iSCSI is staggering, yet they are being readily compared. Remember that FC and FCoE has no routing abilities native to the protocols. iSCSI is layered on top the the TCP/IP and UDP/IP network protocols, this allows much different flexibility. Also, and it remains to be seen once the FCoE standard is finalized, but my gut says FCoE will being the same SAN management problems that learning curve that FC has in today's data centers. I think FC isn't going to go away, many customers still have 1Gb FC deployed still, and adoption of 4Gb FC at the host have been slower then expected. Also, I have to continue to comment on the fact that comparing LeftHand Networks to Equallogic isn't relative, nor fair. LeftHand Networks is and has always been a software product and company. Equallogic has a purpose built storage array, both hardware IP and Software IP.
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  • Stan
    Why make it a choice? There are architectures out there that are network agnostic like DataCore that support iSCSI, FC and FCOE.
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  • L. Davis
    I think too much continues to be made of the alledged inability of FCoE to 'route' FCoE frames, as if this implies that the protocol is defective in some way. FCoE supports Fibre Channel Shortest Path First Protocol (FCSP), which is an implementation of OSPF at layer 2 of the protocol stack. FCoE (and Fibre Channel)have no trouble figuring out how to send layer 2 frames to the appropriate destinations. For those who need to make forwarding decisions at layer 3, Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) is available, since FCoE and Fibre Channel are interoperable.
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