RealTime IT News

Data Trends: From 'iScuzzy' to Near-Line

NEW YORK -- Internet SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) , is poised to move from a cutting edge protocol for network-attached storage to the mainstream as more enterprise managers plan for swifter data recovery.

That was one consensus among some data storage and business continuity planners who huddled to talk shop this week at the annual TechXNY/PC Expo IT trade show here.

"The limitations of fibre channel (architecture) are surpassed by iSCSI ports," declared Donald Mead, director of strategic services for FalconStor , a network storage software maker based on Long Island.

Originally the interface standard for attaching peripheral devices to computers, "scuzzy" technology is growing up along with storage area networks as data increasingly moves into IP networks instead of straight to back-up tapes, where the time lag in recovery is an issue.

Although fibre channel architecture is still dominant as an interface for "big iron" storage area networks, IP-based SCSI is catching on as a complementary data backup protocol as Gigabit Ethernet speeds ratchet up to 10 Gigabit, Mead said.

Fibre channel SANs are still necessary for high availability, but "a lot of applications will be moving to iSCSI," said Mead. The cost is much lower because it works in tandem with other IP networking standards and it helps build a bridge between storage area networks. "A lot of vendors are rolling this out," such as EMC , DataPeer and computing and networking giants IBM and Cisco .

Not that fibre channel products are in any danger of waning, they added. Tech research firm Gartner, for one, predicts the fibre channel Storage Area Network market for routers and other hardware will be worth $6.5 billion within four years.

But in a post-September 11 world in which customers are increasingly interested in full site-to-site back up services, and connecting SANS for mission critical data, the trend is beating a path to IP-based SCSI, said John Summers, director of product strategy at Massachusetts-based network services provider Genuity .

After all, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been developing the iSCSI protocol as a cost effective way to back up and link data storage facilities with the flexibility and scalability that IP affords.

But Bill Cronin, delivery operations manager for North American business recovery Services for Hewlett-Packard , said if they haven't done so, businesses need to conduct network audits in order to calculate what their applications and data are worth.

Like financial services institutions, which have always calculated with granularity the cost of down time, "more business are getting a handle on their costs of losing applications and enterprise data. They're learning to conduct internal audits, which map their downtime costs" in order to assess how much they should spend on real-time backup.

As a result, some companies have realized that "near-line" data storage rather than online backup is appropriate for a bulk of their storage needs, said Machael Marchi, of enterprise storage company Network Appliance "Instead of paying for daily back-up, they are moving to weekly back-up to tape and instead backing up daily on near-line systems."

Yahoo, for example, has recently put some near-line storage in use, deploying a kind of juke box approach to its data needs and moving it from near-line to online as needed.

Near-line data storage costs can range from between 1.5 to 2 cents per megabyte compared to 8 cents per MB for daily back-up and some forms of real-time storage. But customers also need to ask near-line vendors how quickly their data can be accessed, Marchi said, since the trade-off with the cheaper form of back-up is longer recovery time.

That's one reason internal audits that access the cost of data, and by extension, the cost of backing it up, are gaining currency beyond the financial services industry, said HP's Cronin.

In a post September 11 world, added Genuity's Summers, "it's all about data recovery, and how fast you can recover that data."