iSCSI Becomes Official Storage Standard

Folks in the storage industry have been talking about iSCSI (Internet Small
Computer System Interface) for so long, those new to the
sector would swear it has been a fixture. But Tuesday marked the official
ratification of iSCSI (pronounced “I-scuzzy”) by its master, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Bryce Mackin, Marketing Chair for the Storage Networking Industry Association IP Storage Forum, which worked closely with IETF on the
development and ratification of iSCSI, confirmed the culimination of some two and a half years of semantics tinkering and negotiating for Wednesday.

Considered one of the most crucial technologies to pave the way for speedier
storage area network deployment, iSCSI is an Internet Protocol
(IP)-based storage networking standard for linking data storage systems.
iSCSI carries SCSI commands over IP to facilitate data transfers over
intranets and to manage storage over long distances. Now that IP networks
are more commonplace, iSCSI can be used to transmit data over local area
networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), or the Internet.

What the news means for the industry, is that those who are inclined may go
full bore into the development of iSCSI products and market adoption.

“The big thing about this is that it removes that ’emerging’ tag from iSCSI,” Mackin told “This allows end users to move forward to work on the development and deployment of iSCSI solutions with confidence. There had been some reluctance to apply the iSCSI broadly because it had not been formally recognized as a standard.”

iSCSI has seen its share of controversy over the last few years even as vendors such as Cisco, Adaptec, Intel and IBM have introduced iSCSI-based products. Analysts and developers have disagreed about its ability to gain traction in the market, where it is trying to make headway in an infrastructure world rife with a more ingrained method of storage data transmission over IP networks — Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP), which translates Fibre Channel control codes and data into IP packets for transmission between remote Fibre Channel SANs.

One of the main draws to the younger iSCSI standard is that it can run over
existing Ethernet networks. FCIP can only be used in conjunction with Fibre
Channel technology. It is also acknowledged to be less costly and easier to set up and maintain than FCIP. But industry experts do not all agree that it will replace traditional Fibre Channel transmission.

Some IT managers, such as Network Appliances’ Director of Technology Keith Brown, do see iSCSI as competition to Fibre Channel — at least for newer companies looking to set up fresh SANs. Brown told some firms will certainly find iSCSI more appealing, because it is less expensive and less complex than Fibre Channel transmission. That said, Brown recognized that it is unlikely that medium to large-sized enterprises will up and rip-and-replace their entire FC-based SAN. But smaller businesses very well might.

Industry reaction to the news was a consensus of “It’s about time.”

Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, said: “The industry just pulled its finger out of the dyke.”

Mike Karp, senior analyst, Enterprise Management Associates, said: “As a matter of fact, a year ago would have been even more timely, but the players couldn’t get together fast enough.”

An Adaptec employee, Mackin said the parties behind iSCSI cleared the langauge nuance hurdles that made blessing the standard sooner difficult. All parties are now on the same page.

“Anyone who implements [iSCSI] should just be able to plug and play,” Mackin said.

A technical assessment of iSCSI may be viewed here.

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