Will 16 Gb Fibre Channel Derail FCoE?
FCoE was a hot topic at the Interop conference, but the crowd’s reactions were of skepticism rather than enthusiasm. In both of my sessions, many of the questions focused on the “why” of switching to Ethernet for FC storage rather than the “when”.And the advent of 16 Gb Fibre Channel, much in the news with all major
vendors rolling out products this quarter, begs the question: Why use a
10 Gb Ethernet standard that remains in flux when 16 Gb FC is shaping up
It’s important to recognize that neither 16 Gb FC nor 10 Gb FCoE is
really ready for prime time at this point. FCoE is functional as an
edge-only protocol, and is gaining traction in specialized use cases
like blade servers. But end-to-end FCoE requires integrated Fibre
Channel Forwarding and Ethernet fabric technology that remains decidedly
experimental, and interoperability is a serious question. The calendar
will read “2013” before customers can go out and buy Ethernet switches
that are fully capable of plug and play, multi-vendor operation.
16 Gb Fibre Channel is decidedly bleeding edge as well, however. A few
HBAs and switches have been announced, but most are only shipping in
small volume if at all. And although interoperability among vendors and
with previous 8 Gb equipment looks good, it’s not a done deal yet.
the price premium for 16 Gb FC isn’t that high, and I’m hearing lots of
talk about design wins from major OEMs. Analysts expect volume
shipment of 16Gb equipment in 2012, though it won't become the majority
flavor of FC for another 2 to 3 years after that.
A major benefit for both native FC and FCoE is the ease with which they
can be added to an existing FC SAN. Both will plug right in, enabling
future compatibility right off the bat and faster performance in the
future. And a new generation of HBAs are appearing which will work with
either standard, allowing customers to buy client-sideequipment now
without committing to one or the other in the coming years.
Customers are now beginning their evaluation of next-generation SAN
equipment, and will likely allocate major budget spending to 16 Gb FC or
10 Gb FCoE in 2013 and 2014. Which will they choose if both are ready
for prime time at that point.Storage is a conservative space since availability and reliability are so crucial to enterprise systems. They will not buy cutting-edge products without a good feeling about supportability.
Vendors are likely to make the difference here. Cisco will likely continue pushing integrated FCoE solutions with EMC and NetApp, but what will HP, Dell, and IBM do? Emulex, QLogic, and Brocade are eager to work with these system heavyweights and all offer solid 16 Gb FC roadmaps. History suggests that customers will side with their systems partners, and that native 16 Gb FC will continue to be attractive in the coming years. They need compelling motivation to switch to Ethernet.
Tue, Oct 18 2011 8:04 AM