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After pounding away at the iSCSI protocol, a university laboratory has deemed the technology fit for public consumption.

The University of New Hampshire InterOp Laboratory (UNH-IOL) has teamed with some of the largest storage vendors to put version 1.0 of the iSCSI spec through its paces and found that all is working as planned. This should come as good news for companies eager to ignite interest in the fledgling technology. iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) promises to help companies of all sizes expand their storage area networks (SANs) by sending large chunks of data over IP.

"Over our last two plugfests, we haven't pushed anything back into the standard," said Stephen Schaeffer, the UNH-IOL iSCSI Consortium manager, in an interview. "So from what we are seeing based on the vendors participating, the standard is pretty well baked, and it seems the vendors are implementing the standard pretty well."

A long list of vendors sent in software and hardware for the UNH test. ATTO, Crossroads Systems, EMC, Empirix, Finisar, I-Tech, Intransa, iVivity, Microsoft, Network Appliance, Silverback Systems and Xiran were all part of the program. One notable exception was IBM.

Big Blue has done plenty of work in the iSCSI specification and was one of the first vendors to roll out an iSCSI box. Then,last year, IBM scrapped the 200i system and said little about where its iSCSI plans would go.

"(IBM) seems to have lapsed in their support," Schaeffer said. "It has left me scratching my head."

The good news is that the rest of the vendors have backed up their iSCSI hype with solid kit. UNH ran an extensive series of tests on software and hardware products, finding the kit played well together. And what's good for the vendors here is also good the customers.

"I think that iSCSI will initially fill two niches," Schaeffer said. "One is for the people who want Fibre Channel but can't afford it. The other is for people that have Fibre Channel in their data centers but want to link these systems over long distances."

With questions about the iSCSI spec itself now resolved, vendors can concentrate on building a rich set of products to back up the technology. Schaeffer expects companies to work over the next year on tuning their iSCSI systems and adding some new features into gear for security and better application performance.

It has taken a very long time for this iSCSI thing to happen, and it's good to see the vendors are playing nice to help push things along. ®

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