Brocade this week more formally announced its FCoE10-24 Blade for its DCX Backbones. This helps FCoE take another step forward in its maturation process. For me, the eventual conclusion of this process is that FCoE becomes just another protocol that you may or may not implement based on your data center's needs, as opposed to the near religious movement that some vendors would lead you to believe it is.
FCoE has its value, especially for virtualized environments, but for the most part it saves server expansion slots and lowers the amount of physical cable run. Also keep in mind for some environments that this is a different, higher quality and more expensive cable. FCoE is not run across standard GB Ethernet. Finally, until the Brocade FCoE blade, for environments that are connecting directly from the server to a backbone or director infrastructure, FCoE also added the cost of a top of rack switch to perform the protocol distribution to standard FC and IP.
As we discussed in our recent article, "Planning for FCoE", the ability to reduce interface card count and physical cable count in highly virtualized infrastructures will be significant, and one issue that may very well propel FCoE implementations forward. In other environments, however, there will be applications and storage that you want to keep on a dedicated fibre or IP path.
A great example on the storage side is Solid State Disk (SSD). Some SSD based technology can take advantage of every ounce of 8GB bandwidth available. Also keep in mind that as the 10GB bandwidth of FCoE will be shared between IP traffic and FC traffic, the net result may be less storage bandwidth than native 8GB fibre will provide. 8GB fibre connectivity is quickly becoming available for close to the same price as 4GB. SSD may also be the primary motivation for organizations to adopt 16GB fibre when it becomes available. Finally, it is common that the applications that can justify the higher end SSD systems are also those that are not virtualized, and they will want native high speed connectivity.
The result is for many environments there will be a mixture of FCoE and stand alone fibre and IP connectivity. This drives the need for FCoE to become another protocol that the storage manager adds to their connectivity tool belt. Building the technology into a blade seems to allow the flexibility that the data center needs to select the right protocol option at the right time.George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for datacenters across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS, ... View Full Bio
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