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Where to get started with FCoE?

By David Lawrence, product manager, FC Director & Enterprise Software


With all the hype surrounding Converged Networks, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) plus the endless debate about standards, you may be wondering where does this new technology provide real value now? And where to best start deployment? Here are a few things to consider:


  • The biggest concentration of connections, traffic, switches, cables, NICs and HBAs are at the server edge.
  • The standards for FCoE and CEE are solid for the first hop (Server connection to Switch).
  • Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) are available and replace the NICs and HBAs in your servers today.
  • FCoE Switches and Director blades are available today and replace your Ethernet FC infrastructure.

The biggest advantage to a converged network infrastructure is the reduction in the amount of network components, such as switches, switch ports, SFPs, cables, NICs and HBAs. So it makes sense to start deployment at the server edge where you will be able to reduce the most infrastructure. There is no need to replace your entire Ethernet or FC network to benefit from a converged network. 


At a practical level, focusing on a single hop for the first step to a converged network keeps the project manageable and maintainable. Start with tier 2 and 3 applications environments to gain experience with this new technology before converging the networks for tier 1 applications. Two deployment scenarios are possible today:


  • Top of Rack (ToR) FCoE Switch will reduce cables, SFPs and connections to the servers when combined with a CNA.
  • An End of Row (EoR) FCoE Director Blade will reduce cables, SFPs and connections to the servers when combined with a CNA. 

Dig deeper-and conquer IT sprawl

This  new presentation on the HP StorageWorks B-series portfolio of products for converged networking offers more explanation to help guide your FCoE decisions. Check it out and let us know what approach seems right for you.

‎06-19-2010 06:45 AM - edited ‎06-19-2010 07:21 AM

Editor's Note: These comments were manually added as they were not migrated to our new blog platform.



CalvinZ, orginally posted on 10 June



I know a bit about Axxana but not sure why anyone would compare an emerging industry standard to a specific product.  I'm guessing someone is going to tell us more about Axxana...




David Lawrence, FC Director Product Manager originally posted 10 June


Hi Ian,

You bring up some good points. In terms of the reliability of converged host adapters, we’ve invested considerable time and effort to ensure the reliability of our CNAs.  First and foremost, we waited to jump into the market until we felt like we had a quality product with the right feature set to meet our customer’s needs.  The CN1000E is the first CNA to pass HP standards and carry the HP-brand.  We really pounded on these CNAs in both our Networking (Ethernet) and Storage (FC) labs to ensure that not only were we meeting all the compliance standards but to also pass make sure that the experts from both areas had a chance to refine the finished product.   If you are interested in some of the more technical reliability standards such as Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), I’ll  be happy to get that data for you and publish it out here on the blog.


The second point you make about the costs of setting up a converged network connection misses the fact that these one-time installation costs of CNA and FCoE, and CEE Switches would be more than offset by the reacquiring savings in power, cooling resulting from the reduction of NICs, HBAs, Switches, and cables, not to mention the decreased management complexity.


I agree with your statement that multiple devices would need redundancy for enterprise systems. Redundancy is a given for any highly available infrastructure.  If your existing LAN or SAN grew,  best practice dictates it would need to do so with redundant components. The same principle applies to the implementation of a converged network with FCoE or CEE.  Redundant links are the best practice.  Since these new technologies are evolutionary rather revolutionary, there is no need to rip and replace an existing LAN or SAN.  Converged networking components can be added as your infrastructure grows.


I agree with your last statement as well concerning the potential conflict among Server, LAN, and SAN teams. Often the biggest obstacle to new technology adoption are people related. It remains to be seen if the compelling benefits of converged networking can overcome the turf battles between Server, SAN and LAN administrators.  One take is the technology will change to match the organization.  One example of this the HP BladeSystem which has SAS connectivity and storage available that is completely manageable by the Server Administrator with Virtual Connect for dedicated applications eliminating conflicts between the LAN, SAN, and Server administrators.  As converged networks are implemented t management tools will evolve to offer features to reduce the people conflicts.    




Martin Hingley originally posted 10 June


How does FCoE compare with Axxana's appliance approach?




Ian Miller, originally posted 6 June


How reliable are these converged host adapters?


Reducing the number of connections is a good thing - each connection involves people and co-coordination which costs.


Multiple devices will be needed for redundancy for enterprise systems.


The argument between the network team and the SAN team as to who owns the connection will be fun but a definite owner is vital for support.

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