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FCoE: No Big Deal

We certainly are talking a lot about Fibre Channel over Ethernet lately, myself included. Ironic, since almost everyone you talk to does not expect any major deployments until next year, and even that may be very optimistic. With all this commentary you would think that FCoE is either unbelievably complex or the next great revolution in data center infrastructures.

When you net FCoE out, what do you really get? Speed, cable consolidation, and interface card consolidation. Converged Ethernet proponents will insist that I include adding lossless Ethernet to IP and the foundation of NIC-level quality of service. OK. There has to be something to take advantage of it, but, yes, it is there.

What I struggle with is why all the consternation about how each vendor is going to support it. The first wave of the design is relatively simple, and your FCoE decision may be a matter when you have to make it, more than anything else. For example, if you have 2-GB or 4-GB FC today, you may decide to go to FCoE as opposed to 8-GB FC. If you have budget and need to make that move right now and you are comfortable with deploying a standard that is almost, but not quite, ratified, then it can be done.

I doubt seriously anyone is going to rip out all the FC in their data center and replace it with FCoE in one fell swoop. As we discussed in our article, "FCoE in Moderation," this should be a gradual, evolutionary process that, more than likely, will be done one rack at a time. As you add a new rack of servers or decide you need a high-performance rack, both Brocade and Cisco can accommodate with a top-of-rack switch that allows you to run FCoE through the rack and then attach the top-of-rack switch to the fiber SAN and IP infrastructure.

This will make that rack a little cleaner, consolidate some cables and cards, and have you set for adding the next rack as time and budget allow. If you have a 2-GB/4-GB FC infrastructure you more than likely will want to upgrade some of your back-end FC infrastructure to support 8-GB FC so you can get the performance benefits.

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