The ability for a server system to deliver more than one million IOs per second (IOPS) on standard server components is here today. Last week, Intel and Microsoft hosted a webcast to discuss these latest iSCSI performance results. The latest Intel hardware for CPUs and IO along with Microsoft Server 2008 can deliver capability that only a year ago seemed a distant possibility. All Intel NICs ship (and have shipped for sometime) with iSCSI support built in, and Microsoft's native initiator support along with the increase of server CPU performance has made mainstream, ultra high performance network storage possible.
The key takeaway is that performance storage over LAN through a native OS storage stack provides a lot of simplicity, consistency, scalability, and still maintains very good performance. In fact, as discussed on the webcast, one million IOPS is more than any application really needs today, but tomorrow may be here sooner than we think. As storage growth continues, the ability to standardize the datacenter on common, low cost interconnect that has a consistent manageability structure is increasing valuable to IT. The knock on iSCSI storage has always been that Ethernet isn't the ideal protocol from a performance perspective but iSCSI seems to be rising to challenge at hand.
I should probably delve into the simplicity angle here a bit more, because in addition to having this iSCSI capability on standard server components, the native stack management and the convergence of both storage and LAN onto a single interface dramatically reduces the complexity (and cost) of deployment. Additionally, virtualization is a key driver of storage growth and with iSCSI virtualization performance can be enhanced. As it's based on a standard network infrastructure, the benefits that I've highlighted before with respect to Virtual Machine Device Queuing (VMDq) apply directly to iSCSI traffic as well. With iSCSI you get mainstream OS support natively from Microsoft, standard server components available from many vendors based on Intel CPUs and networking, the ability to converge your storage and LAN networks to reduce cost and complexity, and a complete solution that supports all the latest virtualization capabilities.
If you don't like the sound of that, I'm not sure what else to say. One million IOPS usages may be here faster than we think; luckily hardware and software performance is ready for the challenge!
And if this piqued your interest, register for the Intel/Microsoft webcast and watch the archived version. For those of you who need it, there is a little background on storage over Ethernet in an old blog of mine covering iSCSI and FCoE.