Will The Real FCoE Standards Please Stand Up
Earlier this week Cisco made an announcement with partners NetApp and VMware discussing end-to-end FCoE. Not surprisingly, in the storage space this was picked up by quite a few press outlets and retweeted across the Twittersphere. Unfortunately, many people – the press included – started throwing warnings up about how FCoE standards weren’t done, trying to throw a heavy douse of cold water on a very solid announcement.
As a result, in this, my inaugural post as a Cisco blogger, it wasn’t very difficult to try to come up with a topic that was both important and topical. Obviously, there is a huge misunderstanding about the standards process, particularly when FCoE is concerned. There’s more FUD thrown around than you-know-what in a monkey cage.
The problem: most people would rather gouge their eyes out with a grapefruit spoon than think about FCoE standards.
While the ostrich approach may seem like the path of least resistance, the downside is that in this case, what you don’t know can hurt you. Plus, you get sand up your nose.
FUD to the Left of Me, FUD to the Right of Me
As I mentioned, this week has been a field-day for the FUD-mongers. SearchStorage in particular came out with a double-whammy on July 29 with two articles that shed very little light (or truth) to the nature of where FCoE standards are in the process.
For instance, one article states that the “standards that enable FCoE have not been ratified.” (Bizarrely, the article immediately links to another article from a sister site discussing a book by Cisco’s Silvano Gai and Claudio DeSanti that “deals with the recently approved FCoE standard!)
On the very same day, another article states that the standards have been approved, but that “standards that enable FCoE between multiple FCFs remain under development” (in other words, multi-hop FCoE standards still need work).
Neither of these claims, obviously, are correct. Then again, you probably already figured that out…
Breakin’ It Down
There are three things you never want to see being made: Sausage, the Law, and FCoE Standards. Pretty much all of it will make you want to lose your appetite.
Fortunately, I’ve been following the standards closely… so you don’t have to. (You’re welcome; I’m a giver.)
Now, going into details about FCoE standards would either send you into a coma or into an infuriated rage complete with pitchforks and torches outside of my office building (and trust me, my colleagues wouldn’t hesitate to throw me off the balcony just to see what happens), so let me give you some of the key highlights.
First, the FCoE standards are ratified. That was called FC-BB-5 and done in 2009, and published in May of 2010.
Second, FC-BB-5 also sets the standards for multi-hop FCoE. So, we’re not waiting for a different standard for that, either. This means that, despite SearchStorage claims to the contrary, the standards have been laid out and put to rest the issues “that enable FCoE between multiple FCFs.” (If you’re so inclined, you can check out sections 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 of the final draft of FC-BB-5.)
Third, while not directly connected to FCoE, the standards for Converged I/O (more commonly referred to as the Data Center Bridging (DCB) standards) have progressed far enough so that you can actually use FCoE in a real-world environment. Not every standard within the DCB family is relevant to running FCoE, and those that are still in the works are ones we don’t have to worry about to solve FCoE problems.
Fourth, it’s true that these standards bodies are working on new versions of standards. The mongers of FUD would have you believe that it’s important to wait until these new standards are set in stone. But these new versions are for new features and capabilities, not for changing established ones. Think of it like an Operating System: if you were to perpetually wait until the next version just for features that aren’t available right this very minute you’d never buy a computer!
Without question there is more. So, so much more. You’ve probably gone through some of these with a “yeah, but what about…” question on your lips.
Good! You’ve been suckered in! I mean, erm, perhaps I’ve managed to peak a little curiosity.
If that’s the case, I’ll be periodically bringing updates to address these questions over time. I’ll also be providing webinars to provide a little more in-depth understanding to the process and answer some of the specific, technical questions as well. I also periodically update with newsflashes on Twitter.
I know I’ve glossed over a lot of details, and haven’t even hit some of the most egregious knee-slappers out there. In the interest of time, space, and your own sanity, I’ve kept the scope of this post limited.
Nevertheless, we’re all interested in trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. It requires, however, being able to accurately assess where we are at the moment, and sometimes you just need a refreshing dose of accuracy.
When it comes to understanding where we are with FCoE, as long as people keep using standards as an excuse to misinform and manipulate you, it makes sense to immunize ourselves with a basic knowledge of what’s really going on.
There, that wasn’t so painful, was it?