Intel has formally introduced Open FCoE, a software stack for Fibre Channel over Ethernet that the company is offering for free in servers, storage systems, and switches using the company's 10 Gigabit Ethernet Server Adapter X520 product line.
Open FCoE makes it possible to consolidate multiple data and storage networks within a virtualized data center onto a single 10GbE network, Intel said, in launching the new technology Thursday. Open FCoE is designed to bring Fibre Channel to Ethernet, a ubiquitous networking technology, in order to provide IT departments with a more unified infrastructure.
"We think IT departments can lower infrastructure costs by 29%, reduce power by almost 50%, and cut cable costs by 80% by moving to a unified network," Kirk Skaugen, VP and general manager for Intel's data center group, said in a statement.
Intel wants computer makers to incorporate Open FCoE as part of the operating system, and let the server's CPUs handle the processing of connectors, instead of specialized chips in adapters. As an added bonus, IT departments would be able to use common management tools for server and storage connectivity, while also being able to integrate FCoE networks to pure Fibre Channel environments.
In general, Fibre Channel's reliability makes it the technology of choice for enterprise storage. Ethernet is used mostly in local area networks, network attached storage, and for hardware using the Internet protocol-based storage networking standard, iSCSI.
FCoE has been qualified for use in Red Hat Linux, Cisco switches, and Dell, NetApp, and EMC storage products.
Major systems manufacturers are betting that everything will eventually run over Ethernet. Companies that a few years ago only made Fibre Channel adapters are now shipping cards without FC support, making it possible to add FCoE later. Essentially, they're giving customers the tools to use 10GbE for networking today, and add iSCSI and FCoE, if needed, industry observers say. The convergence of Ethernet and FC is expected to take time. To make Ethernet ready for enterprise storage environments, the limitations of the standard IP network will need to be fixed.