Over the past couple of years the conversation about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and converged networks (e.g., Unified Fabric) has become more and more sophisticated. While I still get the occasional “what is FCoE?” question, and still have to correct the occasional journalist who insists FCoE runs over TCP/IP (it doesn’t!), those conversations are becoming more rare.
Instead, the conversation has shifted from the “what is this?” to “how do I do it?” All the diagrams and napkins in the world can’t predict or prepare for the wide-ranging possibilities that customers have in their data centers. I’ve written about a few of the surprises before (http://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/ciscolive-2012-and-the-fcoe-surge/) but every day I get more unique (and more interesting) scenarios.
The Bad News
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. In a conversation with a friend recently, he argued that it’s much easier for customers to know how to use a tool in a proscriptive fashion, with well-defined use cases.
This is, of course, true. After all, server virtualization (he argued) took off specifically because there was a particular deployment model and use case. Not being an expert in the history of virtualization, I took his word for it, but I also know that this isn’t the case for all technologies.
It’s the inverse of the “Law of the Hammer.” Normally, the adage goes, “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The inverse of that “law” is that if you have a hammer, you can only use it to build one thing, such as a house (maybe it should be called “The Law of the Nail”). To limit the tool to being used in such a limited situation risks missing the opportunity for all the other reasons why a hammer can be useful.
FCoE is similar (though the analogy obviously has its limits). While it has a specific purpose, it has more than one specific scenario where it’s appropriate. And this makes the conversations somewhat difficult.
Why? Because customers want -- no, need -- someone to take a look at what they’ve got and give them the best possible solution for their given environment. Sadly, that’s not something that can be prepared in advance.
The Good News
Cisco’s Advanced Services group can help. I walked over to Seth Mason’s office from our Advanced Services group and we started talking about solving these issues. It turns out that, for precisely the reasons above, we have the Cisco FCoE Transformation Service, that takes on these questions in a systematic, programmatic approach. At the risk of sounding like a full-page ad, here’s the kind of things that this service provides:
- SAN Strategy Questionnaire
- Onsite FCoE technology overview presentation
- Customer Data Center-focused whiteboard session
- FCoE Architecture and Reference Guide
But these are just the preliminary steps. For customers who want to have the most help possible, the FCoE Transformation Service runs the entire gamut of assistance.
Cisco’s Advanced Services have created a thorough program of working with customers to make sure the Data Center is properly prepared and migrated into a converged environment using FCoE. Here’s a sample of what the Planning and Design Service accomplishes and delivers:
Customer Requirements Document
Report on all of the requirements set forth by the customer for the new infrastructure, including LAN (Nexus 7000, 5000) and SAN (MDS)
FCoE Readiness Assessment
Determine the health of the Cisco Storage Area Network and Nexus LAN infrastructure prior to introducing FCoE
Provide an overall FCoE architecture
Provide a detailed design for the proposed FCoE architecture
Implementation and Migration Plan
Provide guidelines and best practices to implement the low level design. This can include test plans and the steps necessary to migrate hosts and storage from native FibreChannel to FCoE.
On-site or Remote assistance for installation and configuration
Supporting migration windows, if needed
Ongoing development of key personnel in new functionality and management of the FCoE solution on all platforms involved
You’re Not Alone
Sometimes even experienced IT professionals need a little mentorship and guidance. As I’ve been getting more and more questions about FCoE, I’m glad that I’m able to be able to introduce them to this service which can eliminate much of the confusion and trepidation that comes with trying something new or facing change.
Generally speaking, FCoE may or may not be the right tool to build your Data Center, but for more people it’s becoming a compelling story. If you find yourself among them, I highly encourage you to contact your friendly neighborhood Cisco account team and ask them about the Cisco FCoE Transformation Service, and how it can make your life a lot easier.