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iSCSI take-up in Europe 2004-2005

Editor's intro:- A year ago (2003), in an article on our news page called - Running with iSCSI , Alexandre Delcayre of FalconStor Software, Inc. considered the prospects for the growth of iSCSI take-up in Europe during 2004. Back then, he suggested that, after some initial hurdles, 2004 looked like a year for rapid growth, especially among early adopters. Here, 12 months on, he looks at where iSCSI is now, and offers a new opinion.
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(this article below was published here October 18, 2004)

iSCSI take-up in Europe 2004-2005

by - Alexandre Delcayre, Technical Director, EMEA - FalconStor Software
... FalconStor Software
About a year ago, I was asked to consider the prospects for iSCSI in Europe in 2004. At that time and after due thought, I offered the following opinions, saying that:
  • IT purchasers should look to work with vendors and channel partners that have established expertise in SANs, including IP-based SANs, because IP-based SANs are not a new concept and have existed for a number of years
  • iSCSI would need to go through a normal evolution cycle before becoming mainstream in IT architecture. Before the standard ratification, iSCSI was a concept for forward-thinkers to evaluate and incorporate into their medium-range plans. In 2002 many such early adopters were already moving forward aggressively, while the next round of technologists were starting [in 2003] to design iSCSI into their future architecture o based on end-user and channel feedback, I felt that there would be a period of rapid growth and that, while 2003 had been the year of standardisation and early-adoption, the sky could be the limit in 2004.
Now, a year on, we can look at how iSCSI has really done in the last twelve months: did it really come of age? At first sight, there's no easy answer to that question, and there have certainly been plenty of mixed signals.

At one end of the scale, I've been asked by a journalist whether anyone is buying iSCSI, and whether it's going to take a price war to kick-start buyer interest in the technology. That's a fairly controversial starting point, and isn't one that I can justify in any way. But - journalistic interviewing techniques aside - it suggested there are people out there who, even now, remain sceptical of iSCSI.

At the other end of the scale is what I've witnessed myself at FalconStor during the last twelve months. First, the launch of Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2003 brought the concept of storage solutions within the attention span, if not yet the reach, of smaller organizations. However, the need for a SAN is still there and an FC SAN will clearly keep the cost of a storage solution up.

Then, in April of this year (2004) we formally announced our own iSCSI Storage Server, designed specifically to transform Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 into a unified storage platform, providing both file and block level services, over an existing local area network. Organisations such as SMEs and department-level customers that were unable to move to a Fibre Channel SAN due to cost or complexity issues are now able to consolidate storage for Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and other application servers.

Our announcement clearly struck a chord as, throughout Europe, we've since been signing OEM deals with integrators and resellers to join our partner programme for iSCSI Storage Server, in order to add iSCSI functionality to their existing Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2003 devices. Our new partners include companies like Acer (worldwide), Evesham Technologies (UK), and eSeSIX and ARTEC (Germany).

If you consider not my opinion, but their opinions, to be the other end of the scale, then we have two contrasting viewpoints to consider: some negativity at one end, and a significant gearing up for iSCSI at the other.

Sitting somewhere in between these opinions, we'll doubtless find the purchasers: organisations and businesses that know they need a storage solution and are looking at their options.

For those considering iSCSI as part of that storage solution, the key questions that need to be asked of your reseller or integrator - and answered by them - are:
  • When do I use the existing network instead of developing a separate IP SAN?
  • Should I use standard NICs or should iSCSI HBAs be used?
  • Should I use GbE for the backbone, or can I get by with 100 Mbit for distributed servers?
  • What are the critical tuning parameters? (GbE jumbo frames are just the beginning.)
  • What's the impact of network performance on application performance?
  • What provisioning, monitoring and management tools are needed for the network? For virtualising and managing storage capacity?
  • What other storage services are needed (snapshot, mirroring, replication, backup, etc.)?
  • What are the security requirements?
With storage on the agenda of more companies than ever before through the launch of Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2003, and data no less critical or vulnerable than it ever was, many companies will look at these questions and their answers and conclude that iSCSI, together with storage management software to provide business continuity and disaster recovery, will be the best way to get the most out of their investment in storage.

The one thing we can be certain of is that our industry is not prone to missing a trick by being too late with a technology; if anything, we are sometimes a little early. With the benefit of hindsight, it looks now as though I may have been over-optimistic as to the levels of take-up of iSCSI in 2004 - but, ironically, because I was right: iSCSI has, after all, had to go through a normal evolutionary cycle, and that cycle has simply taken longer than the twelve months I predicted.

However, the rash of OEM signings for our iSCSI Storage Server undoubtedly signifies that many influential people at the really sharp end of IT - sales - now believe that iSCSI is, or is about to become, mainstream, and that iSCSI is set for yet bigger and better things during the next twelve months. Perhaps the sky will be the limit in 2005, instead.
...Later:- iSCSI Market in 2004 was 10 times smaller than Hyped Analyst Predictions
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. - March 4, 2005 - IDC reports that Worldwide external disk storage systems factory revenues grew slightly in the fourth quarter of 2004, posting just 1% growth over the same quarter one year ago to $3.8 billion.

"In 2004, the market for iSCSI SAN grew beyond the $100 million barrier, led mostly by the adoption of midrange systems priced between $15,000 and $149,999," said Natalya Yezhkova, senior research analyst, IDC Storage Systems.

Editor's comments:-
these new figures explain the deep disappointment which has been reported privately to me by many iSCSI vendors.

A few years ago IDC itself had predicted that the iSCSI market in 2004 would be worth over $1 billion.

Instead - the market barely reach a tenth of that size. It shows that you can get burned if you base your business plans on analyst projections. This has also affected several specialist iSCSI publishers who were hoping to make a killing in this market - and have instead resorted to running low cost google ads.

see also:- iSCSI SSDs, storage market research, SSD market analysts

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