EMC is going to enter the iSCSI SAN market with a bang next week.

A new range of iSCSI versions of Clariion arrays, like the ones sold by Dell, will appear alongside the existing fibre channel versions. The AX100i, CX300i and CX500i arrays will mirror the AX100, CX300 and CX500. The prices will be the same. But customers will save money because they won't have to buy Fibre Channel fabric components such as HBAs, cabling and switches.

The iSCSI products' I/O performance is however half that of their Fibre Channel equivalents which use 2Gb ports, as it will be based on 1Gb Ethernet.

The entry-level AX100i can have up to 12 SATA drives and up to 3TB capacity. The workgroup or small department CX300i can have up to 60 drives of 320GB each, either Fibre Channel or ATA ones. The datacentre-class CX500i can have up to 120 drives of 320GB each. The CX700 high end array will not come in iSCSI form.

A dedicated iSCSI LAN is preferred. An EMC support document [pdf] states: "Dedicated storage networks are highly recommended, but not required. Hosts can be connected to a iSCSI array using a Layer 2 (switched) or Layer 3 (routed) network. .The connection to the array must be 1Gb copper (RJ45)." A network switch or router can be used to link hosts to the iSCSI arrays.

There can be dual or single controller versions with the AX100SCi being the single controller version and supporting up to 8 initiators, the AX100i can support 16.

To prevent unauthorised access to these storage systems CHAP (Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol) can be used, in which a username and password is required to gain access.

The Clariion CX iSCSI models are described in this EMC document [pdf]. It says that the CX300i and CX500i support Windows hosts with advanced software functionality including Navisphere Manager, SnapView, and PowerPath for rapid I/O path failover and automated load-balancing.

SnapView creates point-in-time copies. PowerPath offers failover between I/O paths. Navisphere Manager offers array management. EMC's Fibre Channel SAN-specific software, such as MirrorView and SAN Copy, is not supported on these iSCSI arrays.

EMC suggests: "By incorporating high-speed iSCSI TOES (iSCSI TCP/IP off-load engines) in the CX300i and CX500i hardware designs, you can be assured of getting the most out of your IP storage network." It's possible to upgrade from the 300i to the 500i.

In the third quarter of 2004, iSCSI SAN sales jumped 44 percent on last year, according to IDC. NetApp is said to have sold 1,000 iSCSI systems. EMC is playing catch-up.

Pricing starts at $5,000 (£2,800) for the AX100i; a CX300i configured with five 73GB drives, Navisphere management software, installation and three years of service starts at $23,860 (£13,300). Dell has spoken about reselling the iSCSI SAN arrays, although it may only take on a subset of the full EMC range.