Unified fabrics: 10GbE iSCSI vs. FCoE

January 29, 2010 -- The consensus is that 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) will be the basis for unified fabrics/converged networks, but which storage protocol will become the de facto standard for SAN/LAN convergence?

In a recent study "Benefits Of SAN/LAN Convergence," conducted by Forrester Research and commissioned by Dell, 10GbE iSCSI ranks highest among users as the protocol of choice for unified fabrics.

Forrester conducted an online survey with 213 storage professionals in the US, UK, China, and the Netherlands, and 10 in-depth interviews of the same audience. The results show that more than double the respondents selected 10GbE iSCSI (56%) versus the next closest choice, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) (27%).

The study also revealed that 66% of respondents overall said that they are very interested or moderately interested in the concept of unified fabric or SAN/LAN convergence.

The reason for the iSCSI interest is mostly due to the adoption of server virtualization technology. Forrester claims that iSCSI is growing as protocol of choice for virtual server deployments. In a Forrester Research survey from January 2009, Fibre Channel led strongly in protocol selection for virtual server connection. This time around, Fibre Channel still leads the way, but iSCSI is closer behind.

According to Forrester, the data points to strong interest in unified fabrics, as well as interest in iSCSI in 10GbE format as a viable alternative to Fibre Channel storage.

Travis Vigil, a senior manager with Dell responsible for the company's line of EqualLogic iSCSI SAN products, says iSCSI was one of the few segments of the storage market to experience year-over-year growth of approximately 25%.

"The economic situation was an accelerator for iSCSI growth as customers looked to eliminate cost and complexity from their environments. The other contributing factor to the growth of iSCSI is server virtualization as we've seen more and more customers choose iSCSI as their fabric of choice," he says. "First time server virtualization customers find iSCSI to be a cost-effective technology."

Vigil also says iSCSI 10GbE will only make iSCSI better as Ethernet becomes the basis for unified network fabrics. "Fibre Channel over Ethernet is still developing, but iSCSI is here and now. Ten Gigabit Ethernet is only going to make iSCSI better," he says.

For users with legacy Fibre Channel gear, FCoE leads the way as the Ethernet choice. If they move to an Ethernet SAN, 44% chose FCoE, but 30% chose iSCSI, at a close second, and 26% chose NFS, in third.

The shift to unified fabrics is definitely underway, but it will be interesting to see how iSCSI fares as FCoE products become fully baked.


posted by: Kevin Komiega

Kevin Komiega, Senior Editor
by Kevin Komiega
Senior Editor

Kevin Komiega has been the Senior Editor of InfoStor since 2005. He was previously a senior news writer with SearchStorage.com and held a position as a public relations account executive with Porter Novelli, Boston. Kevin also spent four years running tape backup operations at the University of Rhode Island's Academic Computer Center. He can be contacted at kkomiega@quinstreet.com.

Previous Posts