Hewlett Packard Co is poised to plunge into the iSCSI market early next year, by launching a low-end combined NAS and iSCSI storage array - echoing Dell's plans in the same area - and a high-end iSCSI switch that will probably be OEMed from Cisco Systems Inc, writesTim Stammers
Coming from the largest single supplier of disk storage, HP's support will considerably boost the credibility of iSCSI, which until now has distinctly failed to generate any enthusiasm among OEMs. HP's launch is expected to take place within the first couple of months of next year.
"iSCSI technology is certainly applicable, certainly in the short-term. We see the first application as hooking stranded servers into the SAN," said Mark Nagaitis, director of product marketing for HP's infrastructure and NAS division.
"We're talking about a box that has a couple of Gigabit Ethernet ports, and some 2Gbit Fibre Channel ports." This device would act as a protocol convertor as well as a switch, allowing servers that might not justify the cost of a full Fibre Channel link to an existing Fibre Channel SAN to be connected instead via a low-cost iSCSI on Ethernet link.
HP would certainly OEM such a device rather than develop it itself, in the same way that it already OEMs other SAN switching gear. Cisco Systems Inc's SN 5428 storage router, launched last year, closely matches Nagaitis' description, as it includes two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and eight Fibre Channel ports. An alternative might be Nishan Systems Inc's IPS 3000 switch, which offers eight ports all of which can support either iSCSI or Fibre Channel.
As Nagaitis points out, stitching stranded servers into existing Fibre Channel SANs is an application for high-end customers who have already sprung the cost of such a SAN.
"The other iSCSI application we see is right at the other end of the scale. It's an iSCSI device with one wire that provides both block and file data access to servers and clients. That's an area we're very serious about," he said. In April this year Compaq Computer Corp demonstrated such a device at its ENSA [Enterprise Network Storage Architecture] at Work show in Lisbon, Portugal. Since the merger of Compaq and HP this year, much of HP's storage strategy has been taken from Compaq.
HP is not the only supplier to have seen the potential attraction of a storage device which via Ethernet would provide both NAS file-level data access, and iSCSI block level data access. Dell last month told ComputerWire that if it were to enter the iSCSI market, it would most likely do so with such a product, probably around the middle of next year.
HP said that it already has long-standing relationships with companies that have developed TOE-driven iSCSI adapter cards, naming Alacritech Inc, QLogic Corp and Emulex Corp.