FCoE Struggles to Gain Traction


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On the surface, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) seems like a no-brainer: a lot less hardware, cabling, installation, and management, and less expensive, to boot.

"When you take switches, cabling and adapters into account, FCoE is 33 percent cheaper to deploy than traditional networks and holds the promise of 50 percent savings on power and cooling," said Bob Laliberte, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

He said FCoE is typically deployed in a "top-of-the-rack" configuration, which means there is an FCoE-enabled switch sitting on the top of the rack (instead of an FC switch and an Ethernet switch). This configuration would assume the use of converged network adapters (CNAs) or a universal LAN on motherboard (LOM) capable of supporting FCoE. If the applications warrant the support, there will usually be redundant connections -- i.e. at least two FCoE connections for each server to the top of the rack FCoE switch, (as opposed to 2 FC and 2 Ethernet connections per server). The top of the rack switch would then send the Ethernet traffic to the LAN and the FC traffic to the SAN.

"Long-term predictions are that most connectivity options are focused on Ethernet-based transports," said Laliberte." If you look at the CNA market, the universal approach is catching on -- FCoE, iSCSI, Ethernet and even server-to-server connectivity in a single card or chip."

Similar to a unified storage system, which can accept any protocol, the associated servers would have universal connectivity adapters that are able to handle almost any Ethernet-based protocol via either chips on the motherboard or through the adapter's cards.

Despite these advantages, users remain cool to FCoE. ESG placed adoption at only 9 percent of users at the end of 2010. So what's going on?

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