Thursday, January 11, 2007

Year of iSCSI or Languishing iSCSI

There is interesting iSCSI debate brewing between Chuck Hollis of EMC and Dave Hitz of NetApp.

I got my first taste of iSCSI when I laid my hands on newly released Cisco 5420 iSCSI router. The iSCSI standard was barely at draft 0.8.

Initially, I was excited about iSCSI and even got involved in SNIA iSCSI and IP Storage initiatives. But the way iSCSI was being positioned in the market, it didn’t take long to realize that iSCSI will play second-fiddle to Fibre Channel (FC) for a very long time.

T/M/C vs. Company

Dave compares first four years of iSCSI revenue with that of NetApp to convey that it feels like the “Year of iSCSI.”

In my opinion, Dave is thinking about it wrong because he is comparing oranges to apple. iSCSI is a technology/market/category (T/M/C) and NetApp is a company. A comparison between them makes no sense.

First four years of iSCSI revenue are divvied up between several iSCSI vendors with no single vendor dominating the iSCSI category. In contrast, most NAS revenue, not all, went to one company, NetApp. In sixth year of NAS, NetApp was equated to NAS. Can you tell me which company is equated to iSCSI in its sixth year? Nobody.

Whom do you think of when someone mentions NAS, server virtualization, data de-duplication, Fibre Channel, network routers, desktop operating system? Yes, whether it is NetApp, Vmware, Data Domain, Brocade, Cisco, Microsoft or countless others, there was one dominant vendor to born out of each of these “new” T/M/C. They were primarily responsible for defining the “new” T/M/C. And, this is the anathema for iSCSI in my opinion.

There is no single vendor that defines iSCSI category and until there is one, it will continue to languish.

There is another lesson in languishing iSCSI. A T/M/C languishes whenever it goes through standardization before any one vendor has a chance to define it, another successful strategy in the arsenal of established players for killing new T/M/C. This is why SNIA, primarily dominated by established vendors, keep pushing to standardize new T/M/C before they have chance to take root.

I am glad to see that SNIA didn’t get their claws on data de-duplication before Data Domain had a chance to establish roots

More to come ….


  1. I tihnk Chuck and Dave are looking at different quantifiers for "Year of iSCSI".  Dave is looking at when a technology becomes a 'significant money maker' (over $100 million) whereas Chuck seems to define as a 'major player'.  In a multi-billion dollar industry making $100 million doesn't necessarily make it a major player.

    Personally, I see iSCSI growing at a steady rate.  More and more it's becoming a consideration for storage teams but I really doubt we'll ever have a "year of iSCSI" when everyone just turns around and says "I need iSCSI".  Eventually we'll see FC for some applications and iSCSI for others.  They aren't fully competing technologies and a lot of folks are using FC right now for jobs that iSCSI could satisfy.  In the next few years that will remedy itself.

  2. Like Dave, I also measure a technology coming of age when it crosses magic number of $100M. See my previous post about data de-duplication crossing the chasm. But quality of those $100M need to be considered before using it as indicator of a major milestone.

    Anytime you start comparing iSCSI with FC, iSCSI loses its appeal. Over a year ago, I also mentioned in one of my blog post about the flawed positioning of iSCSI.

    Folks don't replace existing solution with another option just because the new option could satisfactorily do the job of the existing solution.