If your IT shop is part of a small or midsize organization and you're currently evaluating your options for a storage area network (SAN), the price tag on Fibre Channel more than likely makes you cringe. For a more reasonable alternative, consider one of the iSCSI storage solutions quickly making a name for themselves from vendors such as Network Appliance, LeftHand Networks, and EqualLogic.

Using an existing Ethernet/IP infrastructure, iSCSI is a lower-end competitor of Fibre Channel, and it often costs a fraction of the price of a full-fledged Fibre Channel solution. Microsoft supports iSCSI SANs through its free iSCSI Software Initiator package. An iSCSI initiator is the software or hardware on a server that connects to the iSCSI target, which is usually an array of disks.

Using iSCSI, companies can better leverage storage dollars by centralizing the storage pool and allocating spaces to services as needed rather than provisioning storage for each and every server in the environment. While not as fast as Fibre Channel, iSCSI can easily meet the needs of many smaller organizations.

To download Microsoft's iSCSI Software Initiator package and learn more about iSCSI, check out the Microsoft Storage Technologies: iSCSI Web page.