The Sweet Taste of iSCSI and Virtualization

Arthur Cole

The push is on to bring both storage networking and virtualization to the enterprise masses in what can only be described as the peanut-butter-and-chocolate approach to platform development -- two great technologies that work great together.


Specifically, the two great technologies are virtual server systems and iSCSI SANs, and the list of vendors looking to join forces to offer integrated platforms is growing by the month. The need for low-cost SAN capability is particularly acute for virtualization providers, considering many small enterprises find the financial rationale for virtualization less compelling when the cost of a separate SAN is added in.


The latest pairing is LeftHand Networks and VMware, which have joined the ESX virtual server with the Virtual SAN Appliance to allow enterprises to create pools of shared SAN storage for virtual machines. The combo is available in four different flavors designed to target small or medium-sized environments and those that require high availability or less than full SAN functionality.


Also joining forces is Fujitsu and RELDATA. The two have forged an interoperability agreement for the Fujitsu XG 10 GbE switch and the RELDATA 9240 Unified Storage Solution. The two companies say the package will allow enterprises to more easily configure low-cost SAN, NAS and WAN systems featuring iSCSI-connected virtual storage.


The prospect of virtualized iSCSI networks is also drawing the interest of leading hardware providers. The prime example is Dell's release of the PS5000 iSCSI array, born of the company's recent purchase of EqualLogic. The system is built on a virtualization layer that allows users to carve up storage to accommodate virtual server environments. Basic system pricing begins at $19,000, easily within the reach of the SMB market.


Even firms that have traditionally targeted large enterprises are rapidly turning to iSCSI as virtualization trickles down to smaller organizations. SANRAD, for instance, is banking on iSCSI to provide low-cost connectivity for managed storage solutions. The Enterprise Strategy Group estimates that more than half of newly virtualized environments will invest in iSCSI to support their virtual environments.


An iSCSI/virtualization combination is enough to get most small organizations up and running with a workable virtual environment. But to truly leverage the technology, most firms will eventually have to increase throughput through virtual I/O technologies and 10 GbE connectivity, which is still an expensive prospect at the moment. Of course, those costs will come down as the larger organizations move on to ever greater connectivity solutions.

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