FCoE: The great convergence, or not?

Posted on April 01, 2009


The controversy over the emerging Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) standard is no longer one of FCoE vs. iSCSI (as it was about a year ago); it's now FCoE vs. the status quo. In other words, stick with two separate networks (Ethernet and Fibre Channel) or converge your fabrics into a unified infrastructure that handles all types of data.

The storage vendor community is, not surprisingly, all in favor of a converged network—as am I. But what's going to be interesting from a competition standpoint is that, eventually, the pure-play storage vendors will have to lock horns with the pure-play networking vendors. (Similarly, IT will have to figure out how to handle FCoE from the perspective of its network and storage teams, which to date have been for the most part separate entities.) Then again, if FCoE succeeds, we probably won't have pure-play storage vendors and pure-play networking vendors.

We've covered FCoE in these pages and on infostor.com from a variety of angles, but the next step is to talk to end users who are actually kicking the tires. Some of the most vocal proponents of FCoE—including Brocade, Cisco, Emulex and QLogic—have promised to provide customer contacts in the near future. I’m skeptical, but we’ll cover these case studies as soon as possible.

For now, read "The great convergence: FCoE and Enhanced Ethernet," by the Taneja Group’s Christine Taylor, in this issue, p. 22. Christine provides an excellent overview of the technology, potential benefits, and hurdles associated with migrating to an FCoE infrastructure. For example, such a migration will require new equipment, including switches that support Enhanced Ethernet and FCoE, converged network adapters (CNAs), and FCoE "forwarders" (which perform stateless encapsulation/de-encapsulation functions).

And particularly in this economic climate, end users will be very interested in the costs associated with FCoE. Proponents argue that it won't cost much more than existing infrastructure, but I doubt it. As such, adoption of FCoE may hinge largely on the state of IT spending when production versions of FCoE products hit the streets.

Going green

If you're serious about energy efficiency in your IT organization, check out "Technology options for green storage," p. 27, by the StorageIO Group's Greg Schulz.

The article was excerpted from Greg's recently published book, The Green and Virtual Data Center. Although our article focuses on storage technologies that save energy (e.g., tiered storage, solid-state disk drives, data de-duplication, thin provisioning, MAID and more), the book covers the entire IT spectrum.

Dave Simpson

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