by Paul Rudo on 24/03/11 at 3:10 pm
iSCSI continues to represent a dramatic shift in the evolution of storage area networks (SANs). iSCSI gives IT organizations an alternative, less complex solution to deploy a more economical networked storage infrastructure to meet changing data and storage requirements. Businesses of all sizes are adopting iSCSI because it’s easy to install, inexpensive, behaves just like Ethernet, and doesn’t require special skills like Fibre Channel.
Much of iSCSI’s acceptance and growth is being driven by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). In this network storage market, iSCSI SANs are particularly attractive to companies that need to transmit and store large amounts of data over their traditional networks – to storage service providers. This includes businesses with:
- Limited IT resources, infrastructure and budget
- Requirements for access to the same data across distributed environments
- Needs for remote data replication and disaster recovery
- Connections to storage service providers
All Apps, All the Time
It was only a few years ago when IT expected to deploy only Fibre Channel SANs for business-critical applications such as transactional databases. iSCSI was used strictly for less business-critical, front-office applications, file shares and Web services. But iSCSI has evolved and IT organizations are beginning to deploy iSCSI across mission-critical applications in addition to the less-demanding applications.
One of the key benefits of iSCSI is the ability to non-disruptively migrate applications from one physical server to another to support load balancing, failover or redundancy, and servicing or updating of hardware. The ability to migrate applications is best achieved with networked storage since the data doesn’t have to move when a virtual machine (VM) moves. However, the network needs to maintain connectivity to the fabric when a VM moves. IP-based storage, such as iSCSI, leverages the built-in capabilities of TCP/IP over Ethernet to transfer network port addresses without interruption to applications.
When integrated with today’s new cloud-enablement software solutions, iSCSI is suitable to work with most applications — including custom in-house applications — mostly because it can run as fast as any normal server they reside on. The key is to select a cloud-enablement solution that is fully compatible with proven Windows or Linux-based NAS technology, so IT can be confident to run any application over iSCSI.
Under most circumstances, iSCSI offers nearly comparable performance to Fibre Channel. While Fibre Channel holds a small performance edge, the added cost is not worth the performance, rendering iSCSI a “good enough” technology that can fulfill most application performance requirements.
iSCSI also enables much better overall utilization of disk space, because Ethernet can be scaled easily. There are literally no limits to how far the actual disks can be stored from the main server. Any system that is connected to the Internet can be connected using iSCSI over Ethernet. This allows for a multitude of architectures that are not otherwise possible — for example, one can have mirrored backups in distant data centers. And as their capacity grows, many businesses are able to easily scale their storage up with iSCSI while maintaining a storage network that’s low cost and with minimal support needs.
Easy Deployment, Low Cost
For many businesses that have limited Fibre Channel experience, installing and maintaining a Fiber Channel infrastructure is characteristically difficult and expensive. The simple and easier alternative, iSCSI, can be up and running quickly. iSCSI uses the same media as the industry standard Ethernet network, making infrastructure purchasing requirements straightforward.
When considering how iSCSI is used to run a more diverse range of applications and delivers increasingly acceptable and satisfactory performance metrics, involves less complexity and support than Fibre Channel, and costs less to deploy, the justification and ROI for iSCSI becomes very compelling for an SMB. In short, the lower hardware costs and the re-use of already existing infrastructure and administration make iSCSI a better economic choice.
As adoption of cloud storage continues to grow, iSCSI is positioned to play a major role in its future. iSCSI makes for an excellent storage network protocol because it effectively addresses the cost, performance, security, scalability and mobility requirements for cloud services.
This is a guest article from Nicos Vekiarides, CEO & Co-Founder, TwinStrata