Cisco Blogs

Is Intel’s OpenFCoE announcement a big deal?

January 27, 2011 - 7 Comments

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.

Intel’s announcement of OpenFCoE as a free upgrade on their X520 family products was nice, but it was only half the equation.

Now it’s not only free, it’s certified by the storage vendors. Yup, EMC and NetApp have both certified these adapters to work with their FCoE storage systems.

So now here’s the deal: you can deploy your servers with 10Gb adapters and have access to the EMC or NetApp storage arrays. You can use OpenFCoE on UCS C-series servers with Intel PCIe NICs.

In other words, your servers now have Fibre Channel access… without needing to pay for it. After all, OpenFCoE is a native initiator in the operating system works with standard 10GbE NICs – no specialized hardware needed. In fact, OpenFCoE scales with the capability of a system, which means that as CPUs get more powerful the performance also scales.

At the very least, customers have opened up their world of choice as servers do not necessarily need to be pre-allocated for one protocol or another, but can be associated to storage with a high degree of flexibility. Usually you have to pay for choice. Now you can have certified, supported solutions that open up your Data Center, without paying extra for the privilege.

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  1. How does that work with the UCS C-Series line? Are you able to manage everything through UCS manager still? If so hows that done?

    • Derek, I'm sorry I haven't been able to get back to you on this. I'm not a UCS guru, unfortunately, so I will have to do some homework and return to this. J

  2. Hahah. If everything was free, then Google would be giving it away. Thanks for responding

  3. Guys, We still need the FCoE lincese on the nexus switches correct. This is eliminating the CNA card, but is the comparative study on performace between CNA card and OPENFCoE? Thanks, Raj

    • Licenses are a bit different, it's true. Storage as well. I didn't say everything was free. :) I think that we will probably have some independent tests come out soon enough (though I'm speaking entirely as a guess and don't know of any actual tests going on).

  4. Dr Metz, I knew software iSCSI, I worked with software iSCSI solutions and there are many differences between the Open-FCoE and iSCSI that must be addressed. Yes, this is a big deal, but this will take years for the impact to truly be felt. My full write-up is here Look forward to more dialogue with you on this, J. Best Regards, @stu

  5. J Good points on Intel and the X520 FCoE announcement along with initial storage vendor support from the likes of EMC and NetApp. The next step is to have the interoperability matrix extended to additional storage vendors in one direction, and support for more operating systems as well as hypervisors in a different direciton followed by increased switch support. The eagle has landed, one small step for LANkind, one giant step for SANkind. Tick tock, tick tock, FCoE is about to Rock! Cheers gs