NetApp Forwards End-to-End FCoE

Arthur Cole

NetApp may have lost the battle for Data Domain, but that hasn't deterred the company from seeking a larger role in enterprise storage networking.

The company is putting in place a strategy that should broaden its scope as a provider of unified storage platforms at a time when enterprises are eager to cut costs by consolidating their various storage networks onto a single fabric.

The company's latest moves, in fact, have made it the only supplier of an end-to-end native Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) solution, which should be of interest to anyone looking to consolidate on an Ethernet platform while still leveraging legacy Fibre Channel infrastructure.

The company announced this week that it has certified QLogic's single-chip 8100 Series converged network adapter (CNA) across its storage platforms. Specifically, the deal mentions the FAS3040, 3070 and 3100 series platforms, as well as the V3100 and V6000 and "any server qualified with these NetApp storage systems."

What the deal essentially does is make implementation of unified storage easier and cheaper, according to Computerworld's Lucas Mearian. Rather than use an Ethernet network interface card (NIC) on the host and a Fibre Channel HBA on the array, you now get native FCoE throughout. QLogic's 8152 card, in fact, provides two adapters, which can be logically separated and managed either individually or as a pair through a single interface.

It also means you may gain many of the Fibre Channel features even if you don't have FC plant in place, says The Register's Chris Mellor. With a CNA ASIC on-board, an FCoE-equipped server should be able to talk to an FCoE-equipped array without the presence of FC-ready cabling between the two. It should also help foster the deployment of Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) which, among other attributes, provides for lossless, low latency connectivity and the ability to multi-hop between networks without having to revert back to Fibre Channel infrastructure.

It's worth noting that along with QLogic CNAs, NetApp has also partnered up with Brocade to certify the 1010 and 2010 CNAs and OEM the 8000 24-port 10 GbE/FCoE switch. NetApp will also resell the new 10-24 FCoE blade for the DCX backbone platform and DCX-4S switch, adding FCoE functionality directly to the SAN fabric director. Currently, the DCX can hold two of the 10-24 blades, with plans to bump that up to eight in the coming year.

It has always been a question of whether FCoE was just a defensive tactic designed to preserve legacy FC equipment or whether it would prove to be a justifiable layer of the Ethernet that would draw new customers to the format. Now that NetApp has made it easier to deploy FCoE, it just might prove to have more legs than many of us thought.

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