WhaT IS ISCSI?
SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) has been a standardprotocol for decades, which enables computers to commu-nicate with storage devices. As system interconnects movefrom the classical bus structure to a network structure, SCSIcommands must be mapped to network transport protocols.Today’s IP Gigabit networks meet the performance require-ments of to seamlessly transport SCSI commands betweenapplicaiton servers to centralized storage.The iSCSI protocol enables the transfer of SCSI packets over a TCP/IP (Ethernet)network. iSCSI is an interoperable solu-tion which enables the use of existing TCP/IP infrastructureand addresses distance limitations (iSCSI can also be usedover the Internet). This means the disk drives in your SAN arepresented over your existing Ethernet network to server ap-plications as though the disks are local to your physical server hardware.Don’t confuse this with traditional SCSI disks; in fact, iSCSIstorage is typically implemented with affordable SATA or SASdisks. iSCSI presents block based storage just as you get withyour internal disk drives, whereas a NAS is nothing more thana plain file server which presents storage as file shares. Acommon scenario is to use a portion of your iSCSI SAN stor-age as back-end disks for file servers (NAS), consolidatingboth application dataand file shares into oneappliance.With iSCSI storage youcan use any IP switchesand routers, and theclient machines (your servers) can use a software driver called an “initiator” insteadof the more costly FC HBAs (Host Based Adapters). For older servers with lower powered CPU’s you can use an iSCSI HBAwhich is still lower cost than a FC HBA. Both StarWind Soft-ware and Microsoft provide freely downloadable softwareiSCSI Initiators. Microsoft has eagerly endorsed iSCSI technol-ogy for Windows, helping to promote iSCSI awareness.The concept of using an IP network for block based storagecauses many people to incorrectly assume storage traffic willclutter their LAN, or that IP networking may not provide thenecessary performance your applications require. While it istrue that many early iSCSI vendors were shipping productsthat were not up to the job of enterprise class applicationssuch as Microsoft Exchange, VMware and SQL Server, thereis also a well established base of vendors that are shippingiSCSI storage into SMBs and enterprise customers. Keep read-ing to learn the truth about iSCSI.iSCSI Storage is often referred to as an “iSCSI Array” or “iSCSITarget”. The official terminology uses “Target” to refer to thestorage side and “Initiator” for the client side driver. The Initia-tor allows application servers and workstations to access theTarget (the iSCSI storage).
BeneFITS oF ISCSI
The iSCSI protocol provides numerous benefits for SANscompared to using Fiber Channel, a few key points are sum-marized below:
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Ethernet andTCP/IP. Most IT administrators are already familiar withTCP/IP, unlike the more complex skills required for FCstorage.
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iSCSI SANs are easier toinstall and maintain than FC, lowering installation andmaintenance expenses. iSCSI reduces the necessity of hiring or outsourcing storage administration.
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iSCSI repli-cation eliminates distance limitations and costs associ-ated with FC routers.
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Using standard Ethernet switchessimplifies everything as most organizations already havein house IP networking skills.
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For enterprise applicationsthat require high transactional performance 10GigE isavailable, thus expanding iSCSI Storage Networks perfor-mance to equal the performance of Metro and Wide AreaNetworks.
iSCSI’s use of IP Networking means long distance is no longer an issue for backing up remote sites or performing disaster recovery. With the use of Secure Internet Protocol (IPSec) andSecure Sockets Layer (SSL) to provide authentication and pri-vacy iSCSI over a public network is a viable method to extendthe corporate network without incurring high costs.10 Gigabit Ethernet provides enough bandwidth and
iSCSI allows any IT administrator to easily deploy a true SAN over an IP network.