High performance is needed if the latest incarnation of Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI) is to make inroads into the high-end enterprise storage market.
Ratification of SCSI over IP, or iSCSI, is now likely in the second quarter.
But to make it a serious competitor to Fibre Channel will require performance improvements primarily in the TCP/IP Offload Engine (Toe), according to Cisco and Adaptec executives speaking at an IP storage forum in London.
"iSCSI is a disruptive technology," said Bernard Zeutzuis, storage product marketing manager, Europe, Middle East & Africa, at Cisco. "It uses existing infrastructure and the same protocol [as for other networking] so you can use internal skills [unlike moving to Fibre Channel]."
Using IP means that storage can be accessed across intranets and local and wide area networks, and even over the internet, subject to security and performance constraints.
As iSCSI can be implemented entirely in software, no changes to existing infrastructure are needed.
With 10 gigabit per second Ethernet now here for the backbone, IP performance can potentially exceed Fibre Channel. But there are performance bottlenecks to be removed.
Explaining the need for TOE, Nilesh Patel, Adaptec's director of sales for northern region, said: "For every megabit per second of TCP throughput, one megahertz of CPU power is needed. So filling a 1GHz Ethernet pipe means that a 1GHz CPU is fully used."
He said that the occurrence of thousands of interrupts is a major factor, but that Toe offloads TCP/IP processing from the host to the network interface card, router or switch. "This enables data to go at near wire speed," said Patel.
Toe-enabled devices can massively speed up the internet itself, or any IP over an Ethernet network. Cisco among others is preparing such products.
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