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EMC Sprinkles iSCSI Into Clariions

EMC is taking iSCSI support to its mid-range Clariion storage devices to provide customers more choice and a lower cost alternative to Fibre Channel products.

The new Clariion models AX100i, CX300i and CX500i are basically the same as Fibre Channel boxes from the line, right down to the pricing, said Tom Joyce, senior director of platforms marketing at EMC.

The key differentiator of the new machines is native iSCSI , or Internet Small Computer System Interface support, which allows data to be transferred among devices.

Though generally believed to be inadequate to suit the needs of the largest enterprises, iSCSI is praised for its ability to lower costs of networked storage for small- and medium-sized businesses, or even departments in large enterprises.

iSCSI offers a less expensive means of device connection compared to Fibre Channel, which is an older protocol still preferred for larger installations of gear, because it connects to Ethernet ports that already exist on an IP network and doesn't require host bus adapters for the servers it connects to.

Joyce said customers may use iSCSI to attach servers to internal storage or direct-attached storage (DAS) instead of using Fibre because of the costs of the HBA and switch ports. Or, he said, SMBs may decide to set up a new storage area network (SAN) and want to save money by using iSCSI.

Less expensive storage connection is important for companies who need to add devices while adhering to a constrained budget.

In EMC's line of thinking, this largely applies to SMBs who incur revenues between $10 million and $100 million per year, though it is not inconceivable that billion-dollar businesses could use iSCSI in departments or remote offices.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Tony Asaro said the new Clariions could usher iSCSI SANs into the mainstream, noting that 42 percent of SMBs are planning to implement iSCSI SANs by 2006.

Asaro believes schools, government and large organizations with remote offices will be the sweet spot for iSCSI. Gartner and IDC also believe iSCSI could grow at a compound annual growth rate of 150 percent to 250 percent over the next few years.

iSCSI support is not new to EMC machines. The company had already offered support for the standard on its Symmetrix DMX systems, Connectrix switches, Celerra and NetWin systems. By adding iSCSI to its Clariion line, it is rounding out support for the method. EMC rivals Network Appliance and IBM are also staunch iSCSI supporters.

Priced at $6,200, the AX100i is available now, based on serial attached (SATA) disks. The Dell/EMC AX100 co-branded machine also now features iSCSI support and is available today for $4,999.

The CX300i and CX500i allow customers to mix Fibre with parallel and SATA disks. The CX300i, starting at $25,650, is expected to be available in the second quarter while the CX500i costs $68,075 and is available now.