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The Hidden News of FCOE

The latest progress report on the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE) standard last week turned up a number of surprises. Here's a list of the news behind the news:

  • FCOE is getting off the ground. This could surprise some skeptics. Introduced nearly a year ago, FCOE initially impressed many observers as a strong-arm tactic by Cisco to protect its vested interest in selling FC switches -- a slap in the face of iSCSI, as it were. But support from a range of big players, which has been building over the last few months, tells a different tale.

    Proof points include the partnership among Nuova Systems (the startup funded by Cisco to develop FCOE silicon), NetApp, and QLogic, which led to a demonstration of working products at a tradeshow in October 2007. Emulex also threw its weight behind a Nuova deal in the same timeframe. In December, Intel goosed FCOE with open-source development support. Last month, FCOE was a selling point cited by Brocade for its nascent DCX backbone switch, which has been OEM'd by IBM and others. And predictably, FCOE factored big in Cisco's Nexus announcement

  • Suppliers aren't waiting to dot the "i"s. Granted, a lot of FCOE activity depends on successful completion of the standardization work. But both Emulex and QLogic have stated their intent to ship nonstandard products ahead of the spec. "We're ready and testing with network and OEM partners," said QLogic VP of marketing Frank Berry last week.
  • The IEEE is also working in support of FCOE. Another surprising point to emerge from last week's news is that work being done on FCOE in the T11 committee of INCITS won't suffice to make the spec work beyond a certain level of basic connectivity. That's why Cisco's Claudio DeSanti, one of the lead developers of FCOE in T11, is working with engineers from other vendors in the IEEE 802.1 committee to modify Ethernet for FCOE use.
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