Vendors Push Fibre Channel Over Ethernet

QLogic, NetApp, and Nuova flesh out their FCOE plans at SNW

October 17, 2007

3 Min Read
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DALLAS -- Storage Networking World -- Vendors are cranking up their Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCOE) strategies here this week, with QLogic, NetApp, Nuova Systems (a startup of which Cisco owns 80 percent), Emulex, and Brocade all pushing technology they claim will unify data center networks.

Tuesday, for example, QLogic teamed up with NetApp and software specialist Nuova Systems to demo a converged network adapter (CNA), which runs Fibre Channel over Ethernet.

"This opportunity to see server and storage networks converge is exciting," said Jeff Benck, the QLogic COO, during a launch event yesterday afternoon. "That's less cabling, less power, and less complexity in the environment."

The exec estimates that 10 percent of SAN ports will be FCOE over the next few years. He told Byte and Switch that QLogic's adapter is already available to the vendor's server OEM partners. "We believe that they will be making it available [to users] in the first half of next year," he said, without naming names.

First proposed earlier this year by a group of vendors spearheaded by Cisco, which included IBM, Intel, and Sun, the FCOE spec is aimed at enabling SAN traffic to be natively transported over Ethernet networks."There's a growing demand on data center resources that makes convergence a must-have," said Soni Jiandani, chief marketing officer of Nuova Systems, during yesterday's launch event. The recent boom in virtualization is placing intense pressure on users' I/O links, she added, which in turn is driving demand for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet.

From the outset, vendors such as Nuova have touted FCOE as an alternative to iSCSI, highlighting, in particular, compatibility with existing storage, drivers, and management tools.

Despite a recent flurry of announcements from iSCSI vendors, Nuova's Jiandani could not resist taking a swipe at iSCSI today. "We're seeing the technology more implemented towards one gig [Ethernet]," she said. "We see it being more applicable to small to medium environments."

Other vendors have also been fleshing out their FCOE strategies in Texas this week. Emulex, for example, announced its own partnership with Nuova to develop products in this space, and Brocade has been demonstrating its FCOE offerings here as well.

FCOE was also a major theme in yesterday's keynote speech from Tom Edsall, senior vice president and CTO of Cisco's data center business unit. "A unified fabric is a really big deal," he said, echoing Benck's comments about slashing the number of adapters and cables needed by users. "If we remove 100 watts of power from every server, we will save more power than the network consumes."The Cisco exec acknowledged that the installed base for "unified fabric" technology is currently zero. "I don't think that we will see a sudden 'flip the switch,'" he said.

During his keynote, Edsall also said he does not anticipate iSCSI disappearing, despite the emergence of technologies such as FCOE. This could be tied to the non-routable nature of FCOE, something which has already been identified as a potential obstacle for FCOE deployments.

In a Byte and Switch poll more than a third of respondents identified FCOE as a solid alternative to Fibre Channel, although a similar number said that they would never be convinced of the technology's merits.

QLogic appears to see FCOE as one of a number of emerging options. In addition to its FCOE adapter, the supplier also made a number of other product announcements today, including the launch of two InfiniBand offerings, the Silverstorm 9020 director and the QLE7200 host channel adapter.

QLogic also ramped up its efforts around 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel in Dallas, taking the wraps off its SANbox 5800 stackable switch and its SANblade 2500 HBA. The InfiniBand and Fibre Channel hardware is already available to OEMs.Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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