Microsoft says it will deliver Internet SCSI (iSCSI) support for Windows client and server environments in June.
Microsoft's iSCSI software driver will be provided by Web download at no charge for Microsoft Windows 2000 client and server versions, Windows XP, and the soon-to-be-released Windows Server 2003.
The IP-based storage networking standard was adopted last month, too late for inclusion in Windows Server 2003.
"Microsoft's support of the IETF-ratified iSCSI protocol signals the company's continued focus on making Windows a stronger platform for storage," said Zane Adam, director of product development and marketing for the Enterprise Storage Division at Microsoft.
iSCSI will provide a lower-cost option for customers that require high levels of performance and reliability for their planned storage area network (SAN) implementations, Microsoft said. Gartner Dataquest expects iSCSI to connect nearly 1.5 million servers to SANs by 2006, more than any competing technology.
"Operating system support for the iSCSI specification will facilitate deployment of interoperable storage products," said James Opfer, chief analyst at Gartner. "These products will meet the needs of customers for whom connectivity and familiarity with IP are of paramount importance."
Dan Tanner, Aberdeen Group's director of storage research, said iSCSI approval came along at a good time.
"iSCSI allows economical operation of both LAN and SAN on the same type of network, using commodity-priced, fully interoperational components and software, and requiring only well-known network management skills," Tanner said. iSCSI also has global distance spanning capability and, as a native protocol, is bootable, he said.
"iSCSI is a perfect mate to the upcoming generation of blade servers on single cards with no disk and no connection other than IP," Tanner said. "iSCSI has arrived just as Gigabit Ethernet popularity is increasing, and now that GbE can run over commonly installed Cat5-UTP copper wiring and with TCP/IP and iSCSI offload engines hitting the market, the timing could not be better."
Microsoft said that more than 60 independent software vendors (ISVs) and independent hardware vendors (IHVs) are in the planning stages or are developing Windows-based applications and storage hardware products for iSCSI. Microsoft has created an "iSCSI Designed for Windows" Logo Program to enable IHVs to qualify their Windows-targeted iSCSI hardware components.
The qualification process will begin in June at the same time Microsoft officially launches support for iSCSI. The Designed for Windows test qualification program will be provided to ensure optimal reliability and interoperability with Microsoft Windows products.
Microsoft's iSCSI driver download will include support for data encryption, including Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), Internet Storage Name Service for both server and client, management via Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), and an architecture that aggregates the different hardware initiators into a common framework.
Microsoft is encouraging ISVs, IHVs, and end customers to begin their tests of the beta 2 version of its iSCSI support when the beta becomes broadly available later in March. Interested parties can sign up for the beta release at http://www.betaplace.com, using the guest ID "iSCSI" (case sensitive).
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