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IBM does iSCSI storage on the cheap

Low-end DS3300 gets virtual protocol

The latest wave of data center virtualization has made the iSCSI protocol an increasingly appealing prospect for the SMB market, and naturally vendors are obliging customers with fresh gear.

IBM is jumping aboard the bandwagon today and unveiling its first entry into the iSCSI storage space since parting ways with Adaptec nine months ago. Big Blue has extended its budget DS3000 range with a device similar to the rest of the product family, but sporting iSCSI connectivity.

According to IBM, the new DS3300 is targeted at SMB customers looking to avoid the cost of Fibre Channel gear as they move away from a DAS (direct attached storage) set-up.

Quoth Charlie Andrews, of IBM System Storage marketing: "SMBs continue to face the same issues that large enterprises are dealing with when it comes to the deluge of data — they are seeing an ever-increasing amount of feature-rich documents, limitless e-mails, audio and video files, data-intensive new applications, and a slew of government regulations by which they must abide."

That's marketing for, "It'll hold your crap for cheap."

Like the rest of the product line, the 2U rack mount DS3300 box will accommodate up to 12 SAS disks, topping out at 3.6TB. The unit will also scale with IBM's EXP3000 disk racks to hold 48 HDDs for a maximum capacity of 14.4TB. Customers can add additional data protection features such as FlashCopy for point-in-time, full-volume copies of data, and VolumeCopy for full logical drive replication.

IBM's latest push into the SMB iSCSI space is shared by smaller guys such as Agámi Systems and LeftHand Networks, as well as big fellows such as Dell, which is set to jump into the field very soon.

But IBM is no spring chicken to iSCSI storage devices. In fact, the box represents the company's third crack at the technology. Back in 2001, IBM was ahead of all major hardware vendors with an iSCSI system, the 200i. But the little guy didn't sell well, and IBM eventually pulled it from the market in 2003. Once bitten, twice shy, the company decided to team with Cisco to offer an iSCSI adapter product until regaining its courage in 2004 to once again go it alone. But the DS3000 wasn't meant to be either.

End of history lesson. The field has changed since then, and iSCSI is now starting to show some real market penetration.

The DS3300 will be generally available September 7, and begin at about $5,000 for the single-controller unit. The dual-controller will be about twice that (appropriately enough).

Additionally, IBM is announcing two new Express bundles based on the DS3400 — a Fibre Channel system. The device will be bundled with adapter cards and/or cables (IBM SAN16B-2 Switches and IBM Emulex 4 Gbps FC 1-port PCI-E Enterprise Host Bus Adapters) to make the installation process a little easier. Previously, customers had to install these components all on their own.®

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