A group test or plug-fest of iSCSI vendor's products has concluded that iSCSI is ready for prime time. The University of New Hampshire has an InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) which, it claims, is a leading iSCSI test and development laboratory, helping to refine the technology's underlying code through a series of half a dozen industry-wide test events held over the last three years. The iSCSI Consortium at UNH-IOL has been responsible for numerous changes and adjustments to the standard since 2001.

iSCSI is currently used, the lab claims, as a backup for Fibre Channel networks that pipe massive amounts of the world's commercial, industrial and institutional data from storage devices to the people and applications that use it. iSCSI technology is increasingly being used to transport data over everyday IP networks, including the Internet. Its maturation is expected to boost the development of the storage area network (SAN) market. However, despite being less expensive and easier to use than Fibre Channel, iSCSI technology has been slow to catch on, in part because the market has been wary of its stability. The tests at the UNH-IOL suggest that these fears are largely unfounded.

Recently a seventh round of tests was run. Stephen Schaeffer, UNH-IOL iSCSI consortium manager said, "The interoperability and conformance tests we ran turned in high success rates. To me, that says that whatever the market is or isn't buying this month, iSCSI is not only ready for prime time, but poised for eventual widespread adoption." He is an iSCSI booster.

Participating vendors were: ATTO; Crossroads Systems; EMC; Empirix; Finisar; I-Tech; Intransa; iVivity; Microsoft; Network Appliance; Silverback Systems and Xiran. Looks impressive at first glance - but not on a second and more searching look. There are only a dozen vendors and heavyweights such as Cisco, HP, IBM and Sun are missing. In fact all the main HBA vendors are absent; neither Adaptec, EMC, JNI nor QLogic are in the list. One might think that TCP/IP offload cards would be an important aspect of such tests.

There is no disk array vendor apart from EMC. Neither HDS nor LSI Logic nor IBM is present. We can't find Overland Storage with its iSCSI library and no other tape library vendor, not ADIC nor StorageTek, is present.

Where does this leave us? Wary is where it leaves us. The vendor list is disquieting and at odds with Schaeffer's conclusion. Our evaluation is that, based upon such a restricted and poor set of vendors, this is not so much a plug-fest as a pig-fest, and a scrawny beast at that. We can't believe that any meaningful TCP/IP offload testing was run which must devalue the test results. There is nothing here to give the overwhelming dominant SAN interconnect of choice; Fibre Chanel, and its vendors any cause for concern at all.