Microsoft Sets Sights on iSCSI

Microsoft on Friday will release the iSCSI target technology it acquired from String Bean Software earlier this year.

The iSCSI Software Target Application Pack will be available through Windows Storage Server 2003 R2 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Microsoft said the IP SAN software “provides the functionality to centralize, consolidate and easily manage storage in a single console. It is a cost-effective, scalable solution designed to enable customers to quickly install and configure a full-featured storage solution for both block-based and file-based storage.”

Microsoft said the offering is aimed at small businesses and departments and branches of large enterprises. The first to use the solution is HP, which announced storage arrays aimed at small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) on Monday.

Microsoft said the iSCSI Software Target is fully supported when used with the Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator, and is also designed to be compatible with all other iSCSI compliant initiators.

Storage Server is currently available only through OEMs, but Microsoft also plans to provide Storage Server to system builders after Longhorn Server becomes available.

“Microsoft has helped make iSCSI adoption a reality.”

— Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO, estimates that more than 80% of iSCSI deployments involve Windows servers. “Microsoft has helped make iSCSI adoption a reality,” he said.

“Microsoft Windows is already the leader in terms of number of instances of servers attached via iSCSI to storage,” said Schulz. “Now can Microsoft become the iSCSI leader in terms of the number of iSCSI target devices (excluding individual LUNs)? StorageIO would be surprised, given the ability of Windows Storage Server-based solutions to proliferate across a very broad entry-level market, if Microsoft could not become a leader in the number of iSCSI target devices.”

“The question becomes, can Microsoft make WSS a threat to the traditional storage vendors in the mid to upper SMB market and on up into the enterprise space?”

Schulz said entry-level iSCSI and IP storage vendors “who only compete on cost or as a low-end product have reason to be concerned.”

For customers who want a platform with purpose-built storage software and functionality, there are plenty of options, Schulz said, such as EMC, EqualLogic, Intransa, iQstor, LeftHand, NetApp and others, and there are also Linux-based iSCSI offerings such as ANStor64.

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