iSCSI adoption rates among storage buyers

Find out which types of storage buyers are driving iSCSI adoption, how they're doing it and what kinds of problems they're running into, in this drill-down on Storage magazine purchasing intentions survey results.

iSCSI, once touted as the rising star of storage, has indeed risen, according to a recent Storage magazine Purchasing Intentions survey. Thirty-two percent of 777 storage user respondents to the survey said they've deployed iSCSI arrays; in spring 2008, that number was 27%. But iSCSI adoption isn't blowing the doors off. About 40% of survey respondents have already or will install iSCSI storage this year, no real change from the last two surveys conducted by Storage magazine/SearchStorage.com.

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Among survey respondents, about 29% will deploy iSCSI through software initiators, while 11% will accomplish it through specialized iSCSI adapters (TOE cards). Whatever territory iSCSI storage is winning, it's picking up an inch or two at a time, with only modest increases in those saying they have plans for iSCSI compared to spring 2008. Midsized companies seem to show the most interest, with 44% saying they're going with iSCSI vs. 38% a year ago.

One company interested in adding to its iSCSI investment is Houston-based ACT Pipe & Supply Inc.. Hilary Tullier, business systems manager, hopes to add two iSCSI arrays to his iSCSI environment. "We have a DR site right now that's really a cold site, and I'd like to make it more of a warm or even hot site by putting in two iSCSI arrays and having them do continuous replication," he said.

Not surprisingly, affordability of iSCSI is its major selling point among respondents who work with VARs. When asked what the primary reason is for deploying iSCSI storage, "it's cheaper than Fibre Channel" was chosen most often, at 34.5%. Another 25% chose "performance will be adequate for our applications," while 13% said they need to add low-cost capacity.

Despite its reputation as a low-cost and easy storage networking option, one storage user said his organization found the opposite: Guy Gaylord, IT manager for TTI Telecom, a 500-employee software company with headquarters in Israel, said that his company considered and lab-tested iSCSI but abandoned it in favor of Fibre Channel because the company ran into trouble integrating iSCSI with the disparate systems that it needs to support. "Getting all the parts to work together was a big problem. It was difficult from Day 1," he said. "It was a technical decision, not a cost one." After TTI Telecom implemented Fibre Channel, it went back to do a cost analysis and determined that its overall cost is lower with Fibre Channel than it would have been with iSCSI, because of the complexity of its environment.

Of those who work with VARs and already have or will deploy iSCSI storage in 2009, end-user storage is the most-often-cited use for it, at 56.5%, followed by non-mission-critical business apps at 52%, backup at 51%, mission-critical apps at 44% and email at 37%.

Nick Howard, systems manager for Infinite Campus, a provider of K-12 student information systems with about 270 employees and 1,500 servers, said the Blaine, Minn., company's storage systems are all iSCSI, with no Fibre Channel in use. The company began looking at iSCSI about 15 months ago, he said; at that time, it used direct-attached storage. When Infinite Campus moved into a new building about 9 months ago, it made the switch to iSCSI storage. "We hold data on about 10% of the student body in the United States," said Howard. "We're in fast, fast growth [mode]." The company plans to expand its use of iSCSI this year, he said.

Med James, a 140-employee insurance company in Overland Park, Kan., has been using iSCSI for more than a year. IT Manager Ed Sitz said, "We're very happy with our iSCSI performance. Our IOs are content running on iSCSI," Sitz said. But, he said, the company didn't decide on iSCSI per se. It was looking for a device that could handle both Fibre Channel and iSCSI for flexibility. It's considering virtualizing its SQL Server databases and Exchange servers, and may need more throughput to do that. In the meantime, iSCSI storage meets Med James' needs.

Indeed, iSCSI performance and reliability don't seem to having a big negative impact on its adoption, as only 18% say performance (the same as last fall) and 11% reliability (14% in the fall) deterred them. Despite the vote of confidence from most survey respondents, Jay Vlavianos, director of production operations for IT at Ecast Inc., a 100-employee digital jukebox software company, said his company deployed iSCSI but ran into performance problems and so went with Fibre Channel instead. "It just didn't deliver the performance to the database we were hoping for," he said. Vlavianos says that the San Francisco company is considering redeploying iSCSI storage this year. "We're trying to do a cost/benefit analysis. It seems iSCSI is only truly effective if there's a 10GB Ethernet to run it on. But, there would be just a handful of nodes it would be running on [at Ecast], so it might make sense."

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