Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Friday, May 12, 2006

iSCSI at Home

After the last couple of posts, I guess I need to play this one straight. So let's talk about a way out there idea - iSCSI at Home. Okay, not really at home but for the SOHO market.

That probably sounds crazy to some people. Most SOHO applications don't need SCSI or SANs, right? Wrong! Sharing resources is as important to a small office environment as a big one. Most of the time that means files, and files mean NAS. However, there are a lot of applications where that is not the case. Let's name a few:

  • Graphics and video - These folks have used SCSI-based systems for ever. These type of applications are now even common in homes thanks to Apple.
  • Music - making, not listening. Many amateur musicians have small home studios.
  • Data Protection - small and remote offices have data protection needs too, even if it's only tape backup
  • Shared disk resources - sure you can do it with NAS but having a private disk volume all your own on a shared device is cool too.
  • Multimedia - whether it's your home theatre or a company presentation system, the file stack is a real hinderance to performance .

Okay, so the best application here is data protection but that's important. Even home systems full of MP3's and kid's homework need to be backed up. Sadly, most are not. You can use simple freeware programs but that's not for a commercial venture. The better solution is to have something more industrial grade. That's where iSCSI comes in.

iSCSI is cheap and has the horsepower to perform most major data protection functions. The perfect data protection system for the SOHO market is block level CDP to an external drive or small array, priced at under $1000. Fire and forget. You can do this with direct attached storage such as a USB drive but that gets expensive in an office with more than one computer. And what office doesn't have more than one computer. Heck, I've got five in my home! Most offices have as many. A single iSCSI-based disk backup device with CDP running under the hood (a Windows service) would provide heavy duty (by SOHO standards) protection. Again, this can be done with NAS devices but not as efficiently. Fibre Channel is too difficult and expensive. A small iSCSI device running over conventional Ethernet (not GigE. Please! Even though it's getting cheap it's overkill for most SOHO customers) that does plug and play would be attractive. More attractive than have five separate backup devices to mess around with anyway.

Price is the problem of course. Individual single disk backup devices are under $200. Even a more sophisticated system would have to be well under $1000, more like $500, to be attractive to the SOHO market. Remote offices would pay more since they come out of big corporate budgets. This is why USB disk drive devices are so attractive. iSCSI runs over existing infrastructure and if SATA drives were used, could be made cost effective.

Think about it. And then send me one to test out/user/keep forever. I have these five machines you see....

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