Like all Internet-connected devices, IP storage units need a unique identifier that will allow servers to find and communicate with them. Currently, IT managers can manually set identification addresses on each device. But as corporate IP storage networks grow in both size and geographic scope, this task is becoming increasingly burdensome. This is the problem the Internet Storage Name Service (ISNS), a device discovery and management protocol for IP storage networks, is designed to remedy.
ISNS would work like a domain name server to ensure that servers could find storage devices based on an Internet small computer system interface (ISCSI). ISNS would also allow managers to designate the servers that can communicate with specified storage devices. The technology behind the protocol was developed by several network heavyweights including IBM, Intel, Nishan Systems and Nortel Networks. The specification is currently under review by the Internet Engineering Task Force, an Internet standards-setting organization.
With so many major backers, ISNS’s approval appears virtually assured. Once that happens, network storage device makers will likely rush to embrace the technology. ISNS’s supporters have already released the protocol’s software as open-source code. (There is one caveat: In this world of rapidly changing standards, vendors are also contemplating extensions directly to ISCSI to support naming.)
ISNS is designed as a compact protocol that can be easily added to a variety of ISCSI adapters and target devices, including storage arrays and routers, says Aamer Latif, president and CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based IP storage product maker Nishan Systems. “ISNS is an important step in making ISCSI the leading network storage technology.”
By making ISCSI-based SANs easier to manage, ISNS could draw more organizations to IP storage. “It removes a potential obstacle to adoption,” says Paul Mattson, ISCSI business manager for IBM’s Raleigh, N.C.-based storage networking division. “For major corporations, the idea of manually setting hundreds or thousands of individual addresses isn’t very appetizing. This is a solution.”