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Is Intel’s OpenFCoE announcement a big deal?

January 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm PST

In a word, “yes.”

A long time ago in another life, I worked for a CNA vendor before anyone had ever heard of FCoE. Used to keeping the worlds of Fibre Channel and Ethernet separate, it came to some of my colleagues as a shock that at some point you would not need to pay for Fibre Channel access in a host.

After all, they had (and still have) a thriving iSCSI HBA business, but for many customers the fact that iSCSI was ‘free,’ proved simply too attractive. Even today, most of the people I’ve spoken with who talk the talk with iSCSI casually mention that it’s ‘free.’

Free is a game changer. Read More »

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Why Ethernet Wins, Reason #82: OpenFCoE

January 27, 2011 at 3:19 pm PST

Over the decades, Ethernet has maintained its role as king-of-the-networking-hill for two reasons:  1) a multitude of companies continue to expand the boundaries of Ethernet’s capabilities to keep it relevant, and 2) the the economics of Ethernet make it hard other protocols to grow beyond niche uses.

Today’s Intel announcement of Open FCoE is a prime example of this.  Over two decades, we have taken Ethernet from a “best effort” protocol to one that offers sufficient reliability to carry storage traffic.  However, it is the economic implications of this announcement that make this truly interesting.

With the X520 family of family of products, Intel now gives folks a simple, easy path to simplifying their data center by converging data and storage traffic onto common infrastructure. While the attendant cost benefits of a unified fabric in terms of both capex (less infrastructure) and opex (power, cooling, operations) and attractive,  possibly the more interesting aspect of this announcement is the risk mitigation and design flexibility this announcement offers.
Read More »

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I <3 Fibre Channel

January 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm PST

I was reminded this week of how much perception is driven by perspective.  In this case, it was because of our advocacy of FCoE.  I was exchanging messages with one individual who interpreted this as an attempt to undermine Fibre Channel (FC) and send it to an early grave.  At the same time I was exchanging messages with someone else who felt we should not be wasting out time on FC and be spending more time and effort on IP-based storage.  Needless to say, I found the contradiction entertaining, but I thought it might be worthwhile exploring these sentiments a bit.

“Doesn’t Cisco want to get rid of Fibre Channel?”

This one is easy--nothing could be further from the truth.  We are committed to FC for the long haul because, simply, our customers are committed to FC. At the end of the day, in the enterprise, FC is still the standard against which other solutions will be judged for performance and availability. Even if customers make the decision to adopt IP-based storage, there is going to be a huge amount of data thats going to stay in the FC domain.  It may stay put or be migrated slowly as part of normal refresh, but the end result is that FC is not going away anytime soon. From our perspective, we will continue to invest in FC as long as our customers tell us its important.  Lest you doubt that, look at the updates to our Cisco MDS family over the last year and also remember that we still sell gear with Token Ring interfaces.

“Why spend time on Fibre Channel protocols?”

This is a fine question.  To paraphrase bank robber Willie Sutton, we’re investing the time in FCoE because that’s where the data is.  One of our primary data center design tenets is a unified fabric at the access layer for its TCO and functional benefits. We are agnostic about how you do that, whether its via IP-based storage or FCoE.  From a practical perspective, as noted above, for most enterprise customers, their data is sitting in an FC domain, so any convergence strategy needs to take that into account. And while the storage folks may not care what we are doing at the server access layer, they are certainly not looking for their lives to be made any more complicated.  Hence, we have FCoE.

At the end of the day, storage strategy shouldn’t be technology-dependent.  The next-gen data center is going to need to support the ability of apps to grab data wherever it happens to be sitting: on IP-based storage, FC-based storage, or in a cloud somewhere, which is what we are ultimately helping our customers prepare for.

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Brocade’s “My Cousin Vinny” Approach to FCoE

November 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm PST

When Brocade announced their “end-to-end native FCoE” solution, and read some of the stuff they were peddling to the trade magazines, I was reminded of the scene in “My Cousin Vinny” where Marisa Tomei’s character is put on the witness stand and challenged by the prosecution to answer a trick question (warning: link contains explicit language).

In a nutshell, in order to show that Tomei’s character doesn’t know anything about cars, the prosecutor attempts to use a lot of fancy language that sound legit but counts on people not understanding how things really work. Read More »

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Unified Fabric and the Network Value of the Data Center

[Part III of our blog series on Cisco Data Center Business Advantage. Part I, II, IV, V, VI]

Deliver information fast…really fast!

Never go down, ever!!

Enable great user-experiences, regardless of where the user is on the planet.

Those are the table stakes requirements of today’s Data Center networks. Do that and business leaders will ignore it like a referee that never makes a bad call in a sporting event. Click-to-“Right Now”, Borderless, 24x7x365 networks. No problem. We can do that.

But with the pace of technology change in today’s Data Center, so much more is being expected of the network: Read More »

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