Native Fibre Channel in an Ethernet World

Arthur Cole

Arthur Cole spoke with Shaun Walsh, vice president, corporate marketing, Emulex.

Cole: With Fibre Channel over Ethernet all but completed, how quickly will deployment happen? Will 2009 be the demo year with broad adoption in 2010?
Walsh: Yes. As you know, all the major vendors have released early proof-of-concept products. That's what used to get certifications. So you can expect product announcements from OEMs in the second half of next year for push products. In the storage world, the pace of development is relatively modest. From our personal experience, we expect to see live deployments in production systems in 2009, and then movement beyond these pilot installations in mid-2010.

Cole: With Fibre Channel available as another Ethernet layer, is there a danger that native FC hardware will fade away?
Walsh: The world doesn't know yet. FCoE is new technology and we are a strong advocate for it, but the marketplace will ultimately decide. But you have to remember that this is not a NIC technology, it's an HBA technology. FCoE will not be on every port in the data center. It will still be a premium service. The difference between a NIC and an HBA is how it deals with error handling, software management and storage management. The values of those things don't change whether you're on the Ethernet or native. We don't expect the market to change radically, so there's no reason to expect the current investment in Fibre Channel equipment won't be valuable in the future because FCoE will be fully compatible with 8G and 16G Fibre Channel.

Cole: Many of the new SSDs are sporting native FC support, particularly the higher-bandwidth versions. How crucial is that for the format's future?
Walsh: The Native Fibre Channel world and FCoE are complementary, not either/or. You'll still have an FCoE fabric that provides consolidation for server and networking infrastructure and native Fibre Channel storage on the back end of that. There is nothing inconsistent about those, no matter what the actual storage medium is.

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