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More Like “The Color of Money”

August 7, 2008 - 2 Comments

In a recent post, Chris Mellor articulates what the impact of FCoE might be on the storage world. How storage switch manufacturers will have to retool their switches to support converged architectures and operating systems. How HBA vendors will have to now create a value proposition competing against entrenched Ethernet NIC vendors and especially how storage vendors will have to add native FCoE capability to their arrays and drives. And of course all this could have an impact to how iSCSI performs in the market as well.While I do agree with most of this assessment, I don’t agree with his conclusion. The fact is whenever there has been a battle between Ethernet and another network transport protocol, Ethernet has always won. Why should this time be any different? Fibre Channel is an excellent storage transport protocol but it is not ideal for a generalized transport of multiple data types. Ethernet has been doing this for some time and transporting storage will be the same as for any other upper layer application. Of course, Ethernet will have to evolve as it always has and Data Center Ethernet will offer the lossless and guaranteed delivery that Fibre Channel has today.Of course vendors like Cisco and QLogic are embracing FCoE as it delivers what customers have been asking for, a common transport for all of their of data. They realize that the data center is being virtualized and servers, storage, and networks have to work together to tackle the challenges that are in front of them.But these aren’t the only ones that see the opportunity of re-architecting the data center to support a virtualized infrastructure. Intel, Emulex, NetApp, and EMC are also supporting this effort as it allows them all to reach a much larger customer base than before.As our CEO likes to say, there’s an inflection point happening in the data center and those who are in front of it and ready to capitalize on it will definitely see “The Color of Money.”

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  1. Doug,This is a fair question. Yes, various components of lossless Ethernet are still being worked on by the IEEE. However, you can attain lossless behavior at the access layer with just Priority Flow Control (PFC IEEE 802.1Qbb). Many switch and adaptor vendors have already adopted this standard so it can be deployed today.Implementing FCoE at the access layer makes the most sense right now as typically 75% of the ports in the data center are server ports allowing for a very quick ROI.The other portions of the lossless Ethernet standard will enable customers to take FCoE into the aggregration and core layers of the network enabling them to build a much larger unified fabric.That being said, the Nexus 5000 implements a pre-standard version of FCoE and Data Center Ethernet today so you can certainly see what these technologies have to offer.

  2. Deepak, a friend and industry analyst named Drue asked me today the following question though that I thought I might bubble up for you to answer-How can you do FCoE if the standards for lossless Ethernet are not finalized? Isn't there a dependency there?