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SNIA promises new push for IP SANs

iSCSI seems to be the hardest word...

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The Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) says it will put more effort into promoting IP-based storage area networks, or SANs. That means iSCSI, although you might not realise it from reading the trade group's statements on the topic.

Planning the IP SAN push are two SNIA sub-groups - the IP Storage Forum (IPSF) in the US, and the IP Storage Initiative (IPSI) in Europe.

At a recent meeting of SNIA members, who include storage software and hardware vendors, users, resellers and integrators, the IPSF's newly-elected governing board said the group would ramp up its educational and marketing programmes, and rework the forum's website to include supplier and solution directories.

SNIA is probably best known for its role in promoting Fibre Channel SANs - its original membership was almost exclusively Fibre Channel vendors and users, and the European arms of SNIA and the Fibre Channel Industry Association actually merged a few years ago. However, it has tried to be a lot more neutral since then, and many of its newer documents are strategic, discussing SAN concepts rather than specific technologies.

But SNIA still finds it hard to mention iSCSI. It insists on calling it "IP storage", a catch-all term that adds in two other technologies, FC-IP and iFCP, even though those are only really of relevance to Fibre Channel users and are just five per cent of the IP storage market.

It also faces the problem that many potential iSCSI customers will be new to SANs and therefore may not know about SNIA and its work. Conversely, in telling its Fibre Channel-using members about iSCSI, it could be undercutting its Fibre Channel-selling members.

IPSI chairman Aad Dekkers acknowledged that iSCSI sales are growing very fast, but denied that it is at the expense of Fibre Channel.

"I don't believe in versus, I believe the market is big enough for both to take share," he said, adding that SNIA is not trying to ignore iSCSI, and the IP storage tag is just terminology.

"People expect SNIA to be pure in its definitions - in most cases, when we do presentations it's iSCSI we talk about," he said. "Fibre Channel is still a big portion of networked storage, but all the Fibre Channel vendors have both now, or at least the possibility of iSCSI on their systems.

"The people at our events come from all sorts of places and backgrounds. We also talk about standards, and ILM, and everything else to do with storage and data management. They want to know the technologies behind the trend - how it works and so on." ®

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