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Ethernet Storage to Morph Again

Cisco is spearheading the creation of a spec that would allow Fibre Channel to run directly over Ethernet in competition with iSCSI. And it looks as though Nuova Systems, the startup that emerged from Cisco storage spin-in Andiamo Systems, will play a key role. (See Vendors Propose FCOE and Andiamo Crew Reunites With Cisco.)

Claudio DeSanti of Cisco is vice-chair of the ANSI T11 committee, which is overseeing the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE) specifications, and he authored the project proposal. Silvano Gai, a former Andiamo and Cisco employee, is helping to author the spec. Gai and former Andiamo colleague Luca Cafiero co-invented Cisco's Data Center Ethernet (DCE) spec, which includes a way of mapping FC over Ethernet, and for which they filed a patent on behalf of Cisco in 2005.

Gai and Cafiero now work at Nuova Systems, in which Cisco has a sizeable investment. And it looks as though they and other Nuova colleagues could be among the first to issue products supporting the new spec -- though Nuova hasn't officially provided any timeline for its first products.

FCOE will use framing techniques contained in FCIP (Fibre Channel over IP, based on IETF and ANSI standards) and the pause mechanisms for Ethernet switches specified by the IEEE. By effectively combining the techniques, DeSanti and Gai propose to run Fibre Channel directly over Ethernet to compete with iSCSI in all kinds of data centers.

"FCoE would enable SAN traffic to be natively transported over Ethernet networks, while protecting and extending the investment that customers have made in storage networks," writes DeSanti in an email today. "FCoE would give customers a new choice for more pervasive server connectivity in the data center, and complements today's existing connectivity and protocols used in storage and data center networking."

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