8G FC versus FCoE--distinguishing myth from reality.

Author:Illmer, Christian
Position:Storage Expo 2009

Over the last several years, network convergence has evolved as the almighty solution to all problems in the data centre network. Struggling against rising energy bills and operating expenditures, IT managers have been pushed to believe that only a converged Ethernet infrastructure can solve their problems.

By converging LAN, SAN and other data centre networks onto a single underlying infrastructure, enterprises can realise profound cost savings. But in a typical data centre environment, the consolidation of sites, hardware and expertise into a seamless network means bringing together a wide variety of protocols--including FC (Fibre Channel), Ethernet, ESCON (Enterprise Systems Connection) and FICON (Fibre Connection).

Merely converging FC and Ethernet onto a single platform isn't the solution that will satisfy enterprise customers. It's true that those are the two highest-volume interfaces in today's data centres. However, pushing for a new single standard like Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) will not cause the other interfaces and their respective legacy equipment to disappear over night.

It is important to consider the security and stability of a single converged platform. Multiple networks may require more management, but if problems occur, it is much easier to isolate the problem without affecting other networks. However, it is conceivable that if a single converged platform was in operation and problems were to occur, there would be significantly greater risk that more downtime and more issues would arise as staff tried to isolate problems. Despite concerns, the future looks bright for convergence and the Ethernet protocol in the SAN market. However, today's market still shows that 8G FC interfaces continue to grow, even though some analysts never expected 8G FC to become a commercial success. Skyrocketing sales numbers for 8G FC have helped BROCADE to gain significant market share from its rivals. Cisco learned the hard way that just having FCoE and Data Centre Ethernet switches was not enough. Today even Cisco, the biggest proponent of Data Centre Ethernet, is offering 8G FC as an interface on its FC switches.


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