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by Sean Fitzpatrick, StorageWorks Storage Platforms Business Development

Over the past few months, we've all witnessed positive milestones for it ready? 

This past June the Fibre Channel Standards T11.3 BB-5 (back bone) working group finalized defining the spec (or ratified) and voted to forward it to INCITS for public review and eventually publication next year.   Is the BB-5 spec good enough to develop product? Absolutely!

Also in June HP announced the availability of two ToR (top of rack) FCoE switches from Brocade and Cisco.  Other companies have also announced future availability of FCoE products.  This is positive move in the right direction for the industry and for customers looking to lower the TCO over time.    

More resources and tools are available today from Brocade, Cisco, Emulex and QLogic to assist with evaluation and planning.  HP's own SAN Design Guide provides great design ideas on how to build or modify existing SANs, including a dedicated application note on FCoE implementation guidelines.

As I've stated before, this stage is very important part of the early adopter Phase I to allow customers to evaluate the technology.  The real adoption has yet to develop (phase II) and it will, once additional mature products become available.  In the mean time IT managers should investigate adopting FCoE for small pilot projects and focusing on how it's going to improve their overall TCO.

From a timeline perspective 2009 is the year for proof of concept and planning.  In 2010 I'm anticipating a wider breath of product availability from all the major suppliers.   

HP's position is FCoE won't overtake traditional Fibre Channel next week, or even next year.  But, now that FCoE is starting to move, it's getting exciting.

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I used to work on the SNIA Data Management Forum a few years back; just as I stepped away from that role, something called XAM started to emerge.  I just noticed a post by Dave Martin of our Information Management team talking more about XAM and thought I would point to it here.  XAM is an emerging standard that anyone managing storage should be aware of.  Here's a link to Dave's post

Labels: standard| storage

FCoE On your mark...get set...Go! (Part 2)

-by Sean Fitzpatrick 


Now that we are on the roller coaster of hype, what is the next cycle for FCoE? 


I would argue that we are still in the first cycle of its adoption. 


If you’re a student of Geoffrey Moore’s Technology-Adoption Life Cycle model; the first logical event is to create and gain market interest or early market. For the sake of argument, I’m calling it ‘hype’ or the same feeling you get when you see a new shinny new penny.  After the penny is passed around and the shine wares off, the next logical cycle is early adopters.


But how can you adopt a technology when the products are close to production ready, but not customer ready?


In my opinion, production ready is something that can be consistently duplicated through a defined manufacturing process.  At this stage, not all the kinks have been worked out, it doesn’t have to be automated, the products are generation one (Gen 1), alpha or beta versions. Components and labor costs are high, economies of scale are not a concern and quality isn’t the most important output process.


Most of the products available today are not what I would call ‘customer ready.’  I define customer ready as a product that has been tested and qualified, supported by a minimum of one operating system, has a set configuration minimum/maximum parameters, can sustain a light to medium work load, and has an errata list of non-supported features / capabilities.   Depending on your own criteria’s it may fall into an Alpha or Beta candidates.


So just where is FCoE and how should I be planning? 


I’m going to go out on a limb and try to group the adoption phases of FCoE over the next 3-5 years.  As a reference, look back at the history of iSCSI and its life cycle from late 90’s to today.  If we learned anything over the years, nothing moves as fast as we would like it to.


From my perspective, 2008 through mid-2009 is about understanding the benefits, limitations, expectations and time will be spent exploring use case scenarios.  This is an excellent time to look at Gen 1 product and do some planning for your next data center refresh or new installations.


Late 2009 through 2010, second generation products start to take shape and economies of scale start to show up, Geoffrey More said; ‘Innovation is valuable only if it helps us achieve economic advantage.’  If FCoE is going to become mainstream, there are two hurdles that have to become reality; 1) Lower customer TCO and 2) IT resources (Network, Server, Storage) teams have to learn new ways of working across functions. 


Beyond 2011 really depends on how the first couple of years unfold.  These first years will set the stage for market acceptance, use case scenarios and follow on technology innovations.

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