Thursday, 30 November 2006

A rival to iSCSI?

I've said before, somethings just pass you by, and so it has been with me and Coraid. This company uses ATA-over-Ethernet, a lightweight IP storage protocol to connect hosts to their storage products.

It took me a while before I realised how good this protocol could be. Currently iSCSI uses TCP/IP, which encapsulates SCSI commands within TCP packets. This creates an overhead but does allow the protocol to be routed over any distance. AoE doesn't use TCP, it uses its own protocol so doesn't suffer the TCP overhead, but can't be routed. This isn't that much of an issue as there are plenty of storage networks which are locally deployed.

Ethernet hardware is cheap. I found a 24 port GigE switch for less than £1000 (£40 a port). NICs can be had for less than £15. Ethernet switches can be stacked providing plenty of redundancy options. This kills fibre channel on cost. iSCSI can use the same hardware; AoE is more efficient.

AoE is already being bundled with Linux, drivers are available for other platforms. Does this mean the end of iSCSI? I don't think so; mainly because AoE is so different and also more importantly it isn't routable. However what AoE does offer is another alternative which can use standard cheap, readily available products. From what I've read, AoE is simple to configure too; certainly with less effort than iSCSI. I hope it has a chance.

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