Contrasting Views on Fibre Channel over Ethernet

Arthur Cole

So is Fibre Channel over Ethernet the savior of Fibre Channel SANS in the age of the Ethernet, or is it a sinister plot to rid Cisco of its perennial thorn-in-the-side Brocade?


Storage Networking World saw a smattering of FCoE technology, but the real push is expected to begin next year, with the 2010 timeframe seen as the beginning of real deployments into working data centers. And while it's tough to gauge enthusiasm at this point, some of the comments at SNW Europe seem to indicate that FCoE could have a tough road ahead.


As this report in PCWorld shows, there are still lingering questions as to why enterprises should continue to invest in an FC infrastructure when Ethernet is available right out of the back of most servers. FCoE will still require investment in things like switches that support the Data Center Ethernet (DCE) standard in order to maintain FC's lossless functionality. And if FCoE emerges as simply another Ethernet layer with no real hardware of its own? All the better for Cisco.


Regardless of these doubts, Emulex and QLogic, the two major contenders for FCoE enabling technology, the Converged Network Adapter (CNA), are lining up to do battle. QLogic has scored first blood in a deal with NetApp to develop native FCoE storage arrays, however both firms have been embraced by EMC as it prepares to release the Connectrix NEX-5020 FCoE Switch. Emulex also gained an edge recently by teaming up with Scalent Systems to bring that company's storage access virtualization automation software to the LightPulse FC HBA. The move allows Emulex customers the ability to quickly alter systems and network topologies to meet changing business needs.


That aspect of controlling and monitoring FCoE networks could prove crucial as the technology is deployed. Finisar Corp. recently introduced a new version of its Xgig multiprotocol testing and analysis platform that includes new FCoE analyzer, load tester and traffic monitoring modules. The system supports both XFP and SPF+ interfaces and can be tied to optical and electric links.


Despite the naysayers, FCoE backers say they have a winning platform that will ensure existing Fibre Channel infrastructure remains valuable to the enterprise for some time. As for drawing new users into the FC fold? I haven't heard anyone address that yet, but if it proves that Ethernet and iSCSI solutions allow too much data loss for the high-end enterprises out there, Fibre Channel is the best available alternative.

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