Where are we with FCoE?

August 4, 2009 -- The Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) standard is fully baked, but how soon will customers deploy the technology beyond the testing phase?

The FCoE standard was finalized at the beginning of June. The FC-BB-5 working group of the T11 Technical Committee completed its work and unanimously approved a final standard for FCoE. As a result, the T11 Technical Committee plenary session approved forwarding the FC-BB-5 standard to INCITS for further processing as an ANSI standard.

According to the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA), this milestone has a few implications:

1.) BB-5 Frame Format and Addressing schema are the heart and soul of FCoE
2.) Advances FCoE industry with no new spins required for FCoE silicon
3.) FCoE products in OEM qualification today are based on the completed standard
4.) Users benefit from fully baked standardized FCoE solutions from day one

Industry research firm TheInfoPro (TIP) believes FCoE is still in the very early stage of development within storage organizations at large enterprises.

In a recent paper, "Fibre Channel Over Ethernet (FCoE): Storage Pro Perspective," Rob Stevenson, TIP's managing director of storage, and Anders Lofgren, chief research officer write:

"It is clear that FCoE and server virtualization are becoming more tightly linked and end users are waiting for 10 Gigabit Ethernet to be fully deployed throughout the data center before moving forward with FCoE adoption, which we expect in two to three years."

TIP also believes FCoE adoption should start to accelerate following the implementation of 8Gbps Fibre Channel and 10 Gigabit Ethernet among storage organizations.

They continue: "All of the storage teams we speak with indicate that FCoE will be the dominant storage transport for the future, but the roles of host connectivity, FCoE initiator certification and topology management are still being debated."

The vendors are arming themselves to the teeth with FCoE-capable networking gear, most notably IBM. Big Blue beefed up its Fibre Channel, FCoE and Ethernet networking portfolio through a series of expanded OEM partnerships with Brocade, Cisco, and Juniper Networks just last month.

According to Cisco's latest data on FCoE, customers are "rapidly adopting" Cisco's FCoE-capable Nexus 5000 series switches and more than one-third of those customers are planning to implement FCoE.

Cisco claims that it "leads the FCoE market" based on shipments. The company now has more than 900 Nexus 5000 customers and has shipped more than 100,000 ports. The Nexus 5020, which is FCoE-capable, has been shipping since June of 2008.

Cisco says 35% of Nexus 5000 customers purchased systems with FCoE enabled, representing: government, information technology, healthcare, manufacturing, media, financial services, telcos, and service providers.

Brocade, another big player in the FCoE space, is taking a realistic view of the subject. In an interesting talk from Tech Day 2009, Brocade's CTO, Dave Stevens, said today's FCoE technologies are changing the landscape of the data center, but only in the first five feet of the network infrastructure. (See Brocade's video: FCoE Reality - Brocade CTO Dave Stevens from Tech Day 2009)

Stay up to date on all of the latest FCoE news by visiting our FCoE topic center page.

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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.

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