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Cisco, VMware, NetApp claim first end-to-end FCoE configuration

Oracle is offering its own FCoE converged network infrastructure

July 28, 2010 05:32 PM ET

Computerworld - Networking, storage and virtualization vendors Cisco, NetApp, and VMware on Wednesday announced what they said is the first certified end-to-end Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) storage network for VMware server environments.

In related news, Oracle is also offering its own end-to-end certified FCoE solution.

"What this means for customers is they are able to build on a consolidated data center fabric with the ability to mount their servers and virtual machines to any type of storage device, whether it's on Fibre Channel over Ethernet or native Fibre Channel, NAS or iSCSI all over one unified fabric," said Soni Jiandani, Cisco's vice president of marketing for server access virtualization.

Jiandani said the consolidated fabric created by an FCoE network for virtual server environments can significantly save money. For example, she said, by using a 10Gbit/sec Ethernet pipe instead of native Fibre Channel switches and adaptors for storage traffic transport, a company could save 40% in networking costs, "while maintaining the investments they currently have in their infrastructure."

The Univesity of Arizona, for instance, installed a unified FCoE network and said it was able to reduce its operating costs by 50%, Jiandani said.

The FCoE protocol works by wrapping Fibre Channel packets in Ethernet headers to send them over traditional Ethernet networks while preserving the Fibre Channel protocol. Typically, because it is sharing bandwidth with traditional server traffic, FCoE systems operate over 10Gbit/sec Ethernet ports.

Ethernet is a less-robust networking protocol than Fibre Channel, which was built to provide reliable and fast transport of block-level data from servers to external storage arrays. Because of Ethernet's inherent problems with dropped data packets, various vendors have submitted separate proposals to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to boost the reliability of Ethernet for Fibre Channel data transport.

"This is not anything new in terms of what our companies resell from each other," said Jim Sangster, senior director of virtualization solutions and alliances at NetApp. "What this is is the full end-to-end support that the three of us have been working on for some time."

The key technology in the converged network system is VMware's vSphere virtualization software, which has now been certified to operate with Cisco's Nexus 5000 Series switches and NetApp FAS series unified storage arrays. The networks also use converged network adapters (CNAs) from QLogic, which convert the Fibre Channel packets to IP packets at the host server level.

Earlier this week, Computerworld spoke with QLogic spokesman Steve Zivanic, who said Oracle recently began rebranding QLogic's 8100 series CNA to create its own FCoE converged network. Oracle now offers FCoE switches from Brocade.

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