With the recent announcement of Dell's intent to purchase EqualLogic, iSCSI is at the forefront of storage news conversation. The Dell/EqualLogic acquisition further validates the iSCSI SAN market, to be sure, but it was already picking up steam and there are already thousands of IT organizations – both large and small – that rely on iSCSI as a core element of their storage infrastructure.
There are different approaches to implement iSCSI. Networked storage vendors offer iSCSI connectivity and virtualization integrated in a storage array. While this may be an effective way to quickly add new storage capacity, it does not take advantage of an organization's existing storage resources, and it can prevent the customer from tailoring storage performance and other parameters to specific application requirements. These limitations make it challenging especially for larger enterprises to adopt iSCSI.
Intelligent network switches with integrated storage services from vendors such as SANRAD deliver open, heterogeneous SAN connectivity and management. Intelligent network switches, unlike other iSCSI solutions, put the power of iSCSI and virtualization directly between physical storage devices and the network. By doing so, they avoid the redundancy and other limitations of integrated iSCSI storage arrays. This enables organizations to quickly and easily deploy iSCSI and to unlock the value of storage virtualization.
Because intelligent network switches are device-agnostic, customers have the flexibility to choose the storage hardware they prefer – whether they are retaining current storage devices or purchasing new ones. Customers can continue to leverage their investments in existing storage hardware, or choose new arrays that precisely match specific applications, all without being locked into proprietary devices or technology.
Larger enterprises have existing storage investments and more demanding IT requirements where the intelligent switch approach often offers the best solution. For example, one should not discount the continued use and proliferation of enterprise Fibre Channel SAN solutions. Intelligent network switches work seamlessly with a mixed iSCSI/Fibre Channel enterprise by connecting these traditionally disparate storage solutions into a complete virtualized storage infrastructure.
Storage-centric solutions are not the only market alternative. Intelligent network switches play an important complementary role as companies add a growing number of iSCSI storage arrays to their storage infrastructure mix.