Microsoft releases a driver for the emerging iSCSI specification that lets its operating system share storage gear using Ethernet networks.
As it had pledged it would, the software giant released driver software to provide iSCSI compatibility within Windows. The iSCSI standard, approved earlier this year, makes it easier for computers to share and manage stored data over Ethernet networks.
Microsoft's driver, which is available as a free download, works with the Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems. The company has been offering beta, or test, versions of its iSCSI software since February. Microsoft said the Public Broadcasting Service, for one, is already using it.
More than 85 software and hardware makers are developing Windows-based applications and storage hardware products for iSCSI, the Redmond, Wash., software maker said. The company is also creating a certification program that allows hardware makers whose products meet certain standards to carry the "iSCSI Designed for Windows" logo.
Although iSCSI is still in its infancy, some analysts believe the technology will eventually grab a large share of the storage networking market. Gartner Dataquest is predicting that by 2006 iSCSI will connect nearly 1.5 million servers to storage area networks.
Today, most networked storage is connected over a Fibre Channel network, separate from the Ethernet networks that connect corporate computers and servers.
In the short term, analysts expect iSCSI to have its greatest impact at the low end of the market, particularly on Windows-based systems.
Microsoft has been trying to make greater inroads into the storage market, announcing deals with a number of hardware makers including Hewlett-Packard, Dell Computer and EMC. Earlier this month, Microsoft said it was readying a new version of its operating system designed specifically for storage gear, Windows Storage Server 2003.