Monday, November 26, 2007

iSCSI Targets - part 1

I've already talked about the iSCSI Storage Server, so it looked like a good idea to talk a bit about iSCSI targets. First a bit of terminology. Since iSCSI is based on SCSI people also used the SCSI terms to describe the client and the server part. So when people talk about a iSCSI initiator they are referring the client-side (like the browser you use to surf the web). And when people talk about a iSCSI target they mean the server-side (like the Apache HTTPD web server).

The iSCSI initiator code has been present in most Linux distributions for a reasonable time. That code is nice and stable and reasonably well tested. this translates to a lot of hits if you google for it. But here I would like to talk about the target side. There have been different efforts to create a iSCSI target on Linux but the seemed to never have gotten the amount of attention as the initiator side did. Anyway, today if you are running a 2.6 kernel distribution there are - to my knowledge - 3 iSCSI target projects that you can use.

The first one is the IET or iSCSI Enterprise Target. It is probably the oldest of the 3 projects and to me the most mature. It is a port of a older iSCSI target that worked for 2.4 kernels but not for 2.6. The goal of the project mentioned on their website basically sums up what they want to create :
The aim of the project is to develop an open source iSCSI target with professional features, that works well in enterprise environment under real workload, and is scalable and versatile enough to meet the challenge of future storage needs and developements.
If I were to suggest a iSCSI target for production use today the IET would be it. Its stable code in my experience. It has a good managemen interface (a clean configfile and CLI tool) and perform very well. One particular feature of IET that I really liked is to be able to configure what kind of caching is done on the target side. When you define a LUN you have to mention the type, there you have 3 options. You have "nullio", which is only made for tested (it's kind like using /dev/null for the device). You have "fileio", this will access a device or a file using the standard Linux caching mechanisms. And you have "blockio", whereby the device will be accessed directly. In my experience when you use HW RAID controllers there is not much different between "fileio" and "blockio". So again, test both options for your specific setup and use what works best.

But when you use the "fileio" type you can set a extra option. It's called "IOMode". You can set this to "ro", which means read-only as you probable had guessed. But is has a second mode, and the most interesting one, that is called "wb". This stands for writeback. When you enable this the Linux page-cache will also be used for write-caching. To explain it simple, in this mode all the free memory on the iSCSI target machine will be used for read- and write-caching. This is easy way to have a large cache available without having to put expensive memory on hardware RAID controllers. This of course doesn't matter that much if you use the Linux software RAID.

Finally, one word of warning. When you do enable the writeback mode in IET it is best to have a UPS powering the server. Since a sudden power loss can result in the loss of data. So do not use that mode without any precautions.

In my next blog I'll talk about the 2 other iSCSI targets. They are architecturally a bit different from IET as you will see then.

43 comments:

Tom Gravgaard said...

For CentOS/RHEL users there are nice rpms available at atrpms.net

NISMO1968 said...

...and if you're looking for Windows-based iSCSI target there's an excellent choice called StarWind iSCSI Target from Rocket Division Software. Just in case here's URL:

rocketdivision.com/wind.html

and like IET it's absolutely FREE.

Thanks!

-ichiro

Anonymous said...

... IMHO StarWind isn´t FREE. It is totally differnet from IET ;-) They isn't opensource and hasn't key features without buying.
But good solution for personal use.
http://rocketdivision.com/download_starwind.html

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