Dell mulls FCoE support

After shelling out $1.4 billion to buy SAN maker EqualLogic last year, it is safe to say that Dell has a hefty stake in the success and growth of the iSCSI storage market. Given all of the recent noise in the industry around Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) being the preferred storage protocol of the future, Dell held a conference call with media and analysts this morning to offer its two cents on the topic.

What it boils down to is that Dell’s storage folks believe converged networks based on lossless Ethernet technology will float all storage boats. According to Eric Endebrock, senior manager for Dell’s storage product group, iSCSI is here to stay and Fibre Channel storage will bolster FCoE as a way to connect legacy FC systems over 10GbE networks (and eventually 100GbE networks).

"Dell is a big believer in unifying the fabric, but that is long-term," said Endebrock. "We are not looking to take our customers and forklift them away from the environments they have today, but they will soon have to start making some choices."

Dell’s official stance is that unified fabrics make the most sense financially for customers in the long-term.

"We are going to support 10GbE and Data Center Ethernet (also known as Converged Enhanced Ethernet) in our EqualLogic PS arrays. Today our PS arrays support iSCSI and will continue to support iSCSI in the future," said Endebrock. "We are not changing now, but protocol flexibility is going to be a key to our success. EqualLogic equals iSCSI is not the best way to think about our investment in that area."

In other words, the company is not ruling out support for FCoE in its Dell EqualLogic PS5000 Series iSCSI SAN arrays.

At last week’s Storage Networking World conference, I asked Dell’s director of enterprise storage, Praveen Asthana, for his take on FCoE and how it might fit into Dell’s product plans going forward.

Asthana said FCoE has already been successful in one respect. It has prompted customers to start thinking about the future. However, he maintained that FCoE requires a networking overhaul and iSCSI is still less expensive overall. He also referred to FCoE as "a stop on the way to iSCSI."

It is no surprise that Dell, like its competitors, is keeping its options open. In the end, customers will ultimately dictate which protocol will dominate or whether FCoE and iSCSI will truly coexist in converged networks.

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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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