July 03, 2002

It's a term that only an engineer could love. But Internet Small Computer Systems Interface, or iSCSI, could soon be one of the biggest developments in data storage. As the amount of data stored grows exponentially, the cost and complexity associated with managing that data is also skyrocketing, forcing the need to develop new technology.

iSCSI has broad implications for storage, enterprise computing and data networking. It enables the interconnection of storage devices using existing Ethernet/IP technology, rather than the incumbent technology, Fibre Channel, a more mature and higher-performing means to network storage.

While iSCSI won't replace Fibre Channel in the near term, it may be applicable for certain markets that aren't target areas for Fibre Channel. iSCSI could gain momentum as advancements over the next three to five years dramatically improve its performance and unit pricing.

The debate between Fibre Channel and iSCSI shouldn't be viewed as an either/or situation, according to Bear Stearns technology analyst Andrew Neff.

While Fibre Channel will continue to be the dominant storage networking technology in data centers for at least two years, iSCSI can provide incremental market opportunities for networked storage by offering an easier and more affordable infrastructure for storage connectivity, Neff said.

"It's still too early to call a winner between the two technologies," said Neff. "The larger question is: will iSCSI take hold and when?"