Despite their need for comprehensive storage management solutions, many small and midsized businesses are reluctant to consider the benefits that a Storage Area Network (SAN) can bring to their business. Although they find the idea of a SAN very attractive, when faced with the expenditures necessary to build the infrastructure, small businesses have difficulty justifying the cost.

Well aware of the opportunity in the small- and midsized-business market, Microsoft released Windows Storage Server 2003 specifically as a cost-effective storage platform that would appeal to a broad subset of the storage server customer base. But to make Windows Storage Server into a platform for SANs, Microsoft added support for Internet SCSI (iSCSI) so that customers could build storage networks running over their existing IP infrastructures. But the addition of iSCSI initiators to Windows Storage Server provides only one of the basic building blocks necessary to build a SAN without a dedicated infrastructure.

This week, FalconStor Software introduced iSCSI Storage Server, powered by IPStor, for Windows Storage Server 2003. iSCSI Storage Server uses FalconStor Software's IPStor technology to provide aggregation and provisioning of iSCSI storage hardware through Windows Storage Server. iSCSI Storage Server makes SAN devices visible as available storage to application hosts throughout the Windows network on an existing IP network. iSCSI Storage Server brings together all the pieces necessary to build and manage a SAN that integrates easily with your existing Windows Server infrastructure.

The cornerstones of the offering are management, backup, and disaster recovery. iSCSI Storage Server's management capabilities aggregate and provision iSCSI disks, making storage available to application hosts, such as Exchange or Microsoft SQL Server, without necessitating application downtime. In conjunction with third-party disk-to-disk backup options, a centralized backup target facilitates backup. Disaster recovery starts with complete support for Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and Microsoft Cluster Services (MSCS), then adds a mirror service (along with FalconStor Software's own cluster service, which doesn't require MSCS) and Snapshot Service, a delta-based point-in-time data imaging feature designed to protect against accidental file deletions, virus damage, and application-corrupted files. Additionally, a delta-based replication service lets administrators recreate server data across any IP network to provide offsite data-recovery capabilities.

Looking at the capabilities that iSCSI Storage Server brings to the table doesn't reveal revolutionary changes to the storage management model or advances in storage server technology. What it does show is a well-thought-out product that consolidates the major advantages of storage management and iSCSI (all of which can be found in other standalone products) into one product that can use the technology that Microsoft and Windows Storage Server hardware ISVs already offer in their storage products.

iSCSI Storage Server is an early entry into what is sure to be a well-received field. If you're looking to build a Windows-based storage solution, the FalconStor Software offering is worth your consideration.