Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Big waves in FCoE

Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) is a technology which aims at I/O consolidation over Ethernet (mainly 10 Gig Ethernet) by encapsulating Fiber Channel frames over Ethernet. FCoE's success will ensure 10 Gig Ethernet's penetration into the Storage Area Network (SAN) market which has been till now mainly dominated by Fiber Channel and iSCSI. The main challenges to FCoE are (i) Encapsulating Fiber Channel frames over Ethernet (ii) Turning Ethernet into a lossless medium just like fiber channel is and (iii) Extending the Ethernet concept of MAC to fiber channel. To understand more about the technical Details about FCoE, I would recommend the following whitepaper.

FCoE is currently undergoing standardization at the T11 standardization body and a standard is expected towards the latter half of this year.

Today there was a lot of activity in FCoE. Cisco, Intel, and Brocade, Emulex, and Netapp jointly made product announcements in Storage World Conference. Cisco decided to completely acquire Nuova Systems, a startup that it had invested earlier in, and which has been working on FCoE switches for the last two years. Cisco also announced its Nexus 5000 switch which supports FCoE, a collaboration between Cisco and Nuova, and said it will have a price of $900 per port.

On the adapter side of things, Emulex introduced the LightPulse LP21000 platform of converged network adapters that support FCoE, Qlogic launched its 8000 series of FCoE-compliant converged network adapters, and Intel said its 10-Gigabit Ethernet adapters now all support FCoE while Brocade will be partnering Intel to deliver FCoE adapters using Intel 10 Gig cards.

It will be interesting to see how the FCoE market grows. It seems still a little premature to make a prediction since the 10 Gig Ethernet adapter market is still lacks volume penetration primarily owing to high costs. Similarly it will be exciting to see how FCoE contributes to the general consolidation market that technologies such as virtualization are driving.

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