Skip to main content

iSCSI The Open-E Way

Storage Is No Different Than Printing

The direction that professional storage has taken is similar to that of printers. Previously, at home, we connected printers directly to our computers via a parallel or USB port. In corporations, they were positioned in places where it physically made the most sense. Printers, for example, could be found next to employees that had to print frequently, or attached to computers dedicated only for printing.

Then, the introduction of printers with network interfaces such as HP's LaserJets with the JetDirect interface option allowed for a more flexible positioning and administration. Printers became independent from their host computers.

Storage is headed in the same direction. Now, most users install more hard drives when they run out of capacity. However, concerns about where data is stored, available capacity or whether a file server is down or not can be less of an issue.

Indeed, even small businesses should consider moving away from the concept of operating file servers in favor of network attached storage (NAS) devices or flexible storage systems within a storage area network (SAN). These networked storage applications allow for increased flexibility, scalability, availability; backup options are increased and where the storage server is physically located is much less of an issue.

iSCSI Targets And Initiators

iSCSI accommodates a server and multiple clients. The server is called a target and typically is either a dedicated storage computer, or a server that has access to direct attached storage. The storage management software can be part of the storage system (this is the case with Open-E's iSCSI) or is simply installed onto a host system. We used DataCore's SANmelody iSCSI target software to review the Open-E iSCSI system.

The clients are called iSCSI initiators. Provided that you have a user account that has access to the desired iSCSI target, you can simply use the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator: it can be downloaded on Microsoft's Website and is free of charge. It uses CHAP (Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol) to log onto an iSCSI target. Simply provide the iSCSI target IP and your login data, and you are ready to go. After login, the iSCSI target will appear as a system drive to Windows, because the iSCSI initiator behaves as if it were a storage adapter (which it effectively is). Although the iSCSI target may be far away, you have the same access as you would with a local hard drive.