Dell Gets Into FCoE, Network Management

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Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) today unveiled new high-speed storage and networking technologies aimed at simplifying and automating data center management.

The new offerings include data storage and IP network management tools and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) networking products.

Dell says its new Advanced Infrastructure Manager software, based on the company’s partnership with resource management firm Scalent, lets customers allocate workloads quickly by managing server, networking and storage devices without the need to move cables or reconfigure software.

Dell senior manager Travis Vigil said the new offering “virtualizes the networking infrastructure” so IT administrators can respond to shifting demands in both physical and virtual server environments. By virtualizing storage and network fabrics, users can change which servers are running and how they are connected to networks and storage without the need for physical changes.

Dell also upgraded its EqualLogic iSCSI arrays to add 10GbE controllers. The new EqualLogic PS6010 and PS6510 arrays boast as much as ten times more bandwidth per port and twice more bandwidth per array than previous versions. The new systems also include a solid state drive (SSD) option.

Dell also boosted the capacity of the EqualLogic PS6500X and unveiled version 4.2 of the EqualLogic firmware to improve scalability and add 10GbE controller support.

FCoE: Coming in 2011

Dell also unveiled new 10GbE switches and is offering CNAs and FCoE switches from QLogic (NASDAQ: QLGC) and Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD).

Vigil said Dell sees FCoE as complementary to its market-leading iSCSI business. iSCSI is for new storage networking customers, he said, while FCoE is for customers who want to migrate to Ethernet infrastructures while preserving Fibre Channel investments. He said Dell sees the FCoE market catching on in the 2011-2012 timeframe.

Dell’Oro Group reported earlier this week that high-speed network connectivity is experiencing very strong growth, led by 10GbE and 8Gbps Fibre Channel.

Steve Zivanic, QLogic’s senior director of corporate marketing, said the need for higher network speeds is being driven by new Intel Nehalem-EX chips and virtual machines, which are creating much higher bandwidth demand.

“You can’t just go to Nehalem without addressing the rest of the server infrastructure,” Zivanic said.

QLogic also trumpeted the win as the latest over rival Emulex (NYSE: ELX), which has been slow to market with a single-chip CNA for FCoE.

Dell: Ethernet is the Future

At a press briefing in San Francisco today, Praveen Asthana, vice president of Dell Enterprise Storage and Networking, said the announcements underscore the potential of 10GbE.

“[I]t represents a changing of the economics of ten gig Ethernet,” said Asthana. “Ten gig is interesting and exciting and customers want to deploy it but it’s expensive. We believe in Ethernet as the underlying network can drive a lot of [capital expense] and [operating expense] changes.”

Asthana said Dell is not a big believer in InfiniBand. “I think that’s one protocol too many for the world,” he said. Fibre Channel is used in Dell’s storage business and the company plans to stick with it there, but the overall network structure will remain Ethernet.

“I think server virtualization pretty much demands you strategize converging in an efficient, unified way those three components. Before server virtualization, you didn’t need to worry so much about networking. Now you have to get rid of bottlenecks to handle the change,” he said.

10GbE has enough bandwidth that you can put your storage traffic and server traffic on the same network and not have to worry about it, he said.

He stressed that Dell’s solution was not an all-or-nothing deal like Cisco’s (NASDAQ: CSCO) Unified Computing System.

“If you look at what some of our competitors have announced, it’s what customers don’t want, that you got to get all the parts from me. Dell is achieving the exact same benefit for the customer but allowing it to be totally open. If you want a Cisco switch, you can have a Cisco switch. Whatever your heart desires you can switch those around. That is a fundamental tenet to what we are announcing,” said Asthana.

Andy Patrizio of contributed to this report.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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