Storage UPDATE--iSCSI and Windows--February 2, 2004

Storage UPDATE--iSCSI and Windows--February 2, 2004

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Quest Software & Microsoft

Windows & .NET Magazine


1. Commentary

- What's the Big Deal with Windows and iSCSI?

2. News and Views

- Serial Attached SCSI Standard Approved

- IBM Introduces Storage Gateway

3. Announcements

- Need to Get Your Hands Wrapped Around SQL Server?

- Check Out the Latest Web Seminar--A Practical Guide to Selecting the Right IM Security Solution

4. Resource

- Dynamic Disks Do Not Come Online After You Restart the Server

5. Event

- New Web Seminar--Realizing the Return on Active Directory

6. New and Improved

- NAS Appliance Line Gets New Backup Software

- Backup Software for Standalone Windows PCs

- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

7. Contact Us

- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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==== 1. Commentary ====

by Jerry Cochran, [email protected]

What's the Big Deal with Windows and iSCSI?

The buzzword of the year in the storage industry seems to be Internet SCSI (iSCSI)--you can find legions of articles on the subject (just initiate a Google search for "iSCSI"). Since the Internet Engineering Task Force's (IETF's) official blessing of the iSCSI standard a year ago this month, Microsoft has been aggressively getting the word out about Windows support for iSCSI and has been lining up and certifying vendors. In June 2003, Microsoft announced its intentions to provide iSCSI support in Windows; in November, Microsoft delivered.

For me, the big deal about iSCSI is its ability to connect to storage resources--particularly expensive Storage Area Network (SAN)-based devices--using block-mode data transfer over "cheapnet." Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices that use file-based transfer have been available in the Windows arena for quite some time, but Microsoft has been reluctant to support them for various reasons both legitimate and illegitimate. File-based data transfer relies on upper-layer protocols such as Server Message Block (SMB), Common Internet File System (CIFS), and NFS. Block-mode data transfer uses lower-level protocols and is the key to allowing I/O-hungry Windows Server applications such as Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SQL Server to use network-based storage.

ISCSI makes block-mode data transfer to and from network-based storage devices a reality and enables vendors to support using such devices with applications that have high I/O requirements. In practical terms, the result is that a Windows administrator who has an expensive SAN that was isolated on its own private infrastructure (or SAN fabric) can slap an iSCSI-based "head" device/server onto the SAN and make it widely available as a network-attached block-mode storage device. More important, if the iSCSI device's vendor is Microsoft certified (e.g., HP, EMC, Network Appliance--NetApp), Microsoft will support the device with Windows and with applications such as Exchange and SQL Server. ISCSI brings network-based storage to the Windows mainstream and builds bridges to more sophisticated storage solutions that previously were isolated islands of storage.

Of course, iSCSI in a Windows world isn't without concerns. One key concern about iSCSI is data security. Because iSCSI is actually just an encapsulation of the SCSI protocol within TCP/IP, the data that flows between a target (a storage device that supports iSCSI) and an initiator (the data requestor) is transmitted in the clear. In addition, no built-in authentication mechanism ensures that sender and receiver are legitimate. The IETF standard addresses this concern by specifying IP Security (IPSec) to encrypt the transfer and requiring authentication of iSCSI end nodes through the Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP). These measures aren't necessary for iSCSI to work, but they are available for businesses that require additional security.

I've always been a skeptic of using network-based storage with I/O-dependent applications purely for performance reasons. Although this performance concern is more important for file-mode NAS devices than for block-mode iSCSI-based devices, iSCSI's use of block-mode transfers doesn't resolve the problem.

Many things contribute to this performance concern. First is the fact that TCP/IP has much more overhead than a channel-based protocol such as SCSI or SCSI over Fibre Channel. ISCSI NIC vendors have attempted to improve performance through hardware-based protocol engines. This approach helps but doesn't completely resolve the problem. In addition, TCP/IP networks are fraught with latencies, which I/O-sensitive applications don't handle very well. For some I/O applications that are under a heavy load, iSCSI-attached storage still doesn't cut the mustard.

Like life, iSCSI is a series of trade-offs. Microsoft has made huge investments in iSCSI to bring it to the Windows mainstream and to take advantage of the apparent wave of industry interest in the technology. If industry projections are correct (Gartner predicts more than 1.5 million iSCSI-connected SANs by 2006), Microsoft's efforts surrounding iSCSI are well spent. If you're looking for ways to leverage a high-end storage infrastructure without the high costs of a pure SAN investment, iSCSI could be for you, and the $20,000 1TB SAN could become a reality. Now that Microsoft will support almost any application that uses certified iSCSI-attached storage, you have some assurance that you won't be going it alone.

For currently qualified iSCSI vendors and devices, see the first link below. The remaining links provide other iSCSI-related resources and information.

iSCSI hardware devices qualified under the Designed for Windows Logo Program

Microsoft Windows Storage Information

Microsoft Windows iSCSI White Paper

Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator Package

Microsoft Designed for Windows Logo Program for iSCSI devices

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==== 2. News and Views ====

by Keith Furman, [email protected]

Serial Attached SCSI Standard Approved

Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) is now an official standard. ANSI has officially approved the standard for the next-generation SCSI protocol. The 3.0Gbps SAS 1.0 standard was finalized about 6 months ago but wasn't officially approved until last week. OEMs have been preparing SAS products for the past few months, and products should become available soon.

Developed by Technical Committee T10 under the direction of the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), SAS is an evolution of the SCSI standard. "SAS preserves the industry's software investment in SCSI command sets. Its configuration is accomplished in software using globally-unique device identifiers. The new standard will make SAS products easier to design, install, and maintain due to compatibility with earlier SCSI generations," said John Lohmeyer, principal engineer at LSI Logic and chair of Technical Committee T10. SAS is compatible with the Serial ATA (SATA) standard as well as with earlier SCSI generations. The SCSI Trade Association (STA) plans to take an active role in ensuring SAS interoperability by holding events throughout the year at which OEMs can test their products together.

IBM Introduces Storage Gateway

IBM has announced a new storage system designed to link storage networks. The IBM TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 is powered by IBM networking software and the company's POWER4 microprocessor. The system helps connect Ethernet-based networks to Storage Area Networks (SANs) for file access. "Today's data centers often share a mix between heterogeneous \[Network Attached Storage\] NAS and SAN technologies. The new gateway can help customers leverage current storage investments while reducing the manpower necessary to support them," said Leslie Swanson, vice president, IBM Storage Systems. IBM will market the TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 as a higher-end product than the company's NAS Gateway 300 series, which is Microsoft Windows Powered and uses Intel processors.

The new gateway supports Windows, Linux, and UNIX clients. It offers native support for IBM's storage servers and, in combination with IBM's TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller, can be used with other vendors' storage servers. Available on February 6, the IBM TotalStorage NAS Gateway 500 will start at $60,000.

==== 3. Announcements ====

(from Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

Need to Get Your Hands Wrapped Around SQL Server?

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Check Out the Latest Web Seminar--A Practical Guide to Selecting the Right IM Security Solution

Deploying an IM security solution is the only way to gain control over your IM security. In this free Web seminar, you'll learn about IM authentication, encryption, support for and interoperability between different IM networks, auditing, automatic legal disclaimers, virus and worm scanning, and more. Register now!

==== 4. Resource ====

Dynamic Disks Do Not Come Online After You Restart the Server

If you have a Storage Area Network (SAN) environment and restart a server, dynamic disks might be slow to come online. To learn more about this problem and how to address it, click the URL below.

==== 5. Event ====

(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

New Web Seminar--Realizing the Return on Active Directory

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==== 6. New and Improved ====

by Renee Munshi, [email protected]

NAS Appliance Line Gets New Backup Software

Avail Solutions, creator of Integrity data protection software, announced a partnership with AXIOMTEK's storage division, FASTORA, which makes Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliances. The FASTORA appliances will use their flash-ROM technology to house the NAS OS and Integrity software and will allow the integration of various hard disk subsystems and tape library solutions. For more information, click the URLs below.

Backup Software for Standalone Windows PCs

Lockstep Systems announced the release of Backup for One disk-based backup and disaster-recovery software for standalone Windows computers. Backup for One delivers data protection to individual users who want to take advantage of disk-based backups instead of tape. Backup for One performs an initial, complete backup of the user's computer and stores the backup files in an encrypted and compressed format. Subsequent backups copy only the files that have changed since the last backup. Backup for One is priced at $79, with volume discounts available. For more information about Backup for One, visit the URL below.

Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 7. Contact Us ====

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