Author(s): Mark Peters

Published: January 18, 2010

iSCSI Adoption Continues its Upward Path

Those of you that saw today's 'Daily Truth' (where, on ESG's front page, we post some nugget of wisdom or insight) will have seen that 52% of the US end-users that we surveyed late last year either already use or plan to use iSCSI. Not bad for a storage protocol that was dismissed by some as the equivalent of the poor kid from the IT housing projects a few years back. The research covered some 1500 end-users (OK, 1488 to be precise) ranging in employee size from just a 100 or so to over 20,000. The full Research Brief is available here, but for those of you that want the 'CliffsNotes' version of some key findings, here is the abstract from the paper:

The percentage of businesses employing iSCSI storage technology has now reached 28%, marking the technology's transition from intriguing ingénue to mainstream storage solution. With increased adoption expected by ESG's survey respondents and with current and planned use cases spanning a wider range of applications, environments, and business types, iSCSI storage is poised for ongoing market growth. Key external factors such as the surge in server virtualization deployments and IT budget pressures caused by the global economic crisis are fueling iSCSI's growth.

Not only does it encapsulate the essence well, but any time you can get a word such as ingénue into an IT piece, it's a good day! I'm still searching for a place for mellifluous...!

OK, back to the serious stuff. The title of this blog talks of iSCSI's 'upward path.' Interestingly, I don't just mean its overall adoption, true as that is; what's intriguing is that within the adoption figures, we found that the highest market penetration is actually at the upper end of users as measured by their sheer size. Given the origins and perceptions of iSCSI, that may seem counter-intuitive, but it demonstrates that no one is immune to a good value proposition! 61% of the large enterprises (20,000+ employees) we surveyed either use or plan to use iSCSI compared to only 47% of midmarket (100-999 employees) organizations. Why? Well one can surmise that larger organizations invariably have more applications and more data--and that data simply cannot all go on expensive FC disks, especially in the ongoing financially contrained world we inhabit. Moreover, as the research brief states "...the 393 current iSCSI users surveyed by ESG were asked to identify the specific IT initiatives that had provided their organizations with the initial impetus to deploy an iSCSI-based SAN. Not coincidentally, the top three-storage consolidation, cost reduction, and supporting server virtualization-are firmly rooted in minimizing expenses and improving efficiency." The bigger you are, the more the focus on managing these issues tends to be married with an ability to move fast and to take action--it's not that smaller organizations aren't flexible and cannot or will not make the move; rather, it's simply that their buying-cycles are more constrained. Indeed, the majority of iSCSI purchases were found to be additions to existing networked storage infrastructure and not replacements of existing FC SAN and/or NAS.

Daily truths are certainly interesting--yet truths that exist and develop over time can be compelling. ESG last looked at iSCSI adoption rates in 2006; in the roughly 3 year span since then, iSCSI usage in the midmarket (100-999 employees) has grown by 47% and by 61% in the enterprise space (1000+ employees) . With consolidation, virtualization, and budget pressure all expected to be continuing factors in the data center for the foreseeable future, it looks as if iSCSI will continue its upward path as well.

Read more of Mark's blog entries at Mark My Words.


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Mark Peters is an ESG Practice Director and Senior Analyst focused on storage systems. His particular areas of emphasis are block and unified storage systems, virtualized storage, all types of solid-state storage, and the emerging opportunities represented by “software-defined storage.”

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