Opinion: FCoE's 10Gbit/sec. should be in your future

FCoE fits nicely with the Data Center Transformation themes

It's highly likely that, if you follow the comings and goings of storage networking technology, then by now you've at least heard of the emerging Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) standard working its way through the INCITS process (see "New Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard proposed"). To level-set, FCoE is a method of encapsulating the packets that would normally flow across an FC SAN for transmission over Ethernet link. Think 10 Gbit/sec. Ethernet for practical purposes. However, unlike other FC-to-Ethernet encapsulation methods like FCIP and iFCP, FCoE lives within the same OSI layer as IP, enabling enhanced performance, lossless frame transmission and some other goodies.

FCoE fits nicely with the Data Center Transformation themes now playing at your favorite IT vendor's Web site. FCoE is all about the convergence of data center storage and data communications fabrics as 10 Gigabit Ethernet rolls out -- Ethernet for all and all for Ethernet.

Maybe the thought of combining storage I/O and networking fabrics within the data center has you chomping at the bit. On the other hand, maybe it doesn't. Either way, as the FCoE bandwagon parades across your screen, here are some questions worth considering:

  • Who within the data center operations group will manage the converged fabric? A converged fabric will require at least some convergence at the IT and data center staff level as well. Are you comfortable with that? Are you prepared for it?
  • Will you have to learn a new language? Sorry, but yes. Do you know what a CNA is? It's a converged network adapter. Think of a CNA as being in the same general category as an HBA. Does it work like an HBA? Sort of. Then there's Data Center Ethernet, otherwise known as Converged Enhanced Ethernet -- two competing names for the same standard. Hey, just what everyone needs -- new acronyms!
  • Will due diligence be required? You bet. Expect needing to investigate interoperability, drivers, cabling, connectors, standards versioning, FICON support, buffer credits and so on.
  • Will FCoE cost more than FC? Yes, at least in the beginning. I expect CNAs, for example, to cost a bit more than FC HBAs but not substantially more. Economies of scale and competitive pricing will start to kick in at some point, assuming even modest adoption by users of FCoE. Why? Both FC and Ethernet vendors are lining up behind the FCoE standard.

John Webster is the principal IT adviser at research firm Illuminata Inc. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached at jwebster@illuminata.com.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon