To access iSCSI targets, your host uses iSCSI initiators. The initiators transport SCSI requests and responses, encapsulated into the iSCSI protocol, between the host and the iSCSI target.

VMware supports different types of initiators.

A software iSCSI adapter is a VMware code built into the VMkernel. It allows your host to connect to the iSCSI storage device through standard network adapters. The software iSCSI adapter handles iSCSI processing while communicating with the network adapter. With the software iSCSI adapter, you can use iSCSI technology without purchasing specialized hardware.

A hardware iSCSI adapter is a third-party adapter that offloads iSCSI and network processing from your host. Hardware iSCSI adapters are divided into categories.

Dependent Hardware iSCSI Adapter

Depends on VMware networking, and iSCSI configuration and management interfaces provided by VMware.

This type of adapter can be a card that presents a standard network adapter and iSCSI offload functionality for the same port. The iSCSI offload functionality depends on the host's network configuration to obtain the IP, MAC, and other parameters used for iSCSI sessions. An example of a dependent adapter is the iSCSI licensed Broadcom 5709 NIC.

Independent Hardware iSCSI Adapter

Implements its own networking and iSCSI configuration and management interfaces.

An example of an independent hardware iSCSI adapter is a card that either presents only iSCSI offload functionality or iSCSI offload functionality and standard NIC functionality. The iSCSI offload functionality has independent configuration management that assigns the IP, MAC, and other parameters used for the iSCSI sessions. An example of a independent adapter is the QLogic QLA4052 adapter.

Hardware iSCSI adapters might need to be licensed. Otherwise, they will not appear in the vSphere Client or vSphere CLI. Contact your vendor for licensing information.