Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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Is FCoE a myth?

Over the last year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a number of customers about the emerging Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard.  The idea of converging Ethernet and Fibre Channel sounds instantly appealing, but the realities of large scale implementations have many caveats with them.  Last week Gartner published a paper on FCoE titled “Myth: Single FCoE Data Center Network = Fewer Ports, Less Complexity and Lower Costs”.

Given the release of this paper, I thought it would be a good time for me to share some thoughts on FCoE as well.  From my experience, not all customers are aware of some important considerations when evaluating deployments of FCoE.  In no particular order.,.

1. While FCoE can converge ports at the server edge, the total bandwidth remains the same.  So as you go to aggregation and core, the number of ports required to run 8Gb FC or 10Gb Ethernet will likely remain roughly the same or greater.  Replacing relatively inexpensive lossy Ethernet switches with 10Gb lossless ones may actually increase costs substantially.

2. FCoE is literally Fibre Channel running on top of enhanced Ethernet, so both protocols need to be managed.  This may reduce expected management savings.

3. For IT organizations with both a LAN and SAN team, FCoE will likely add a new dependence of the SAN team onto the LAN team.  This could slow down IT change events as more teams are involved in routine provisioning and maintenance operations.

4. FCoE requires lossless Ethernet to operate properly.  Most switches deployed in customer data centers today lack the hardware to support this.  As a result, implementing FCoE will typically require a large-scale replacement of switch hardware.  Most SAN arrays do not support FCoE natively and would also need to be replaced to support end-to-end FCoE.

5. The lossless Ethernet (DCB) that FCoE is dependent on is not yet ratified by the IEEE.   One new protocol for congestion notification across multiple hops (QCN) requires new silicon to fully implement.  Even the newer FCoE enabled switches lack the necessary silicon hardware to support QCN, so full implementations will require next generation switches.

FCoE is an interesting concept, but multi-hop FCoE is a bit premature.  The standards that take this from a concept to a reality are being fleshed out as we speak by the IEEE DCB Workgroup.  For more information on the status of DCB, see: http://www.ieee802.org/1/pages/dcbridges.html.


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  • More than 25 years in the IT industry developing and managing marketing programs. Focused in emerging technologies like Virtualization, cloud and big data.
  • I am a member of the Enterprise Group Global Marketing team blogging on topics of interest for HP Servers. Check out blog posts on all four Server blog sites-Reality Check, The Eye on Blades, Mission Critical Computing and Hyperscale Computing- for exciting news on the future of compute.
  • I work within EMEA HP Servers Central Team as a launch manager for new products and general communications manager for EMEA HP Server specific information. I also tweet @ServerSavvyElla
  • HP Servers, Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and ExpertOne
  • WW responsibility for development of ROI and TCO tools for the entire ISS portfolio. Technical expertise with a financial spin to help IT show the business value of their projects.
  • I am a member of the HP BladeSystem Portfolio Marketing team, so my posts will focus on all things blades and blade infrastructure. Enjoy!
  • Luke Oda is a member of the HP's BCS Marketing team. With a primary focus on marketing programs that support HP's BCS portfolio. His interests include all things mission-critical and the continuing innovation that HP demonstrates across the globe.
  • Global Marketing Manager with 15 years experience in the high-tech industry.
  • 20 years of marketing experience in semiconductors, networking and servers. Focused on HP BladeSystem networking supporting Virtual Connect, interconnects and network adapters.
  • Working with HP BladeSystem.
  • Greetings! I am on the HP Enterprise Group marketing team. Topics I am interested in include Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and Management, and HP BladeSystem.
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