Storage companies synch up with Windows

In a boost for an emerging networking standard, more than a dozen storage hardware companies prove that their iSCSI-based products work with Microsoft's Windows.

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In a boost for the emerging iSCSI networking standard, more than a dozen storage hardware companies have proven that their iSCSI-based products work with Microsoft's Windows.

Microsoft on Wednesday announced the news and named the hardware vendors, which include Intel, Cisco Systems and Network Appliance.

iSCSI (pronounced eye-scuzzy) is an Internet Protocol-based standard for transmitting data. Approved earlier this year, the interface makes it easier for computers to share and manage stored data over common Ethernet networks. It is an alternative to linking computers and storage through more specialized networks that use the Fibre Channel interface.

Jamie Gruener, an analyst with market research firm The Yankee Group, said iSCSI adoption has been slower than expected. One reason is that major storage system vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and EMC have not aggressively embraced the technology, Gruener suggested. None of those storage heavyweights was among the hardware companies announced by Microsoft.

Promoting iSCSI could edge in on the profits that storage systems companies get from selling networked storage gear using the Fibre Channel interface, Gruener said.

In addition, the technology remains fairly novel, he said. "iSCSI's still in the proving grounds," he said.

Microsoft moved to support the interface in June, when it announced software to let Windows work with iSCSI. Customers with Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 can freely download what's known as the "Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator."

Storage gear makers that use the new Microsoft Storage Server 2003 operating system have the option of including iSCSI support, according to the company.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant also began a testing program to check that products--such as storage disk arrays that use the iSCSI interface and hardware "bridges" designed to translate iSCSI commands to another interface--are compatible with Windows. Other vendors that have passed Microsoft's iSCSI qualification program include Adaptec, ADIC, Crossroads and McData.

Gruener said Microsoft's iSCSI backing makes sense as the company seeks a larger share of corporate information technology dollars. "iSCSI is a technology that's going to be in the data center" as well as in business work groups and departments, he said.

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