Intel Opens Up FCoE

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In an effort to speed up Fibre Channel over Ethernet adoption, Intel has open sourced its FCoE initiator technology.

“We think storage over Ethernet is a great idea,” said Intel storage planner and technologist Jordan Plawner. “We’ve open-sourced the FCoE initiator, which is the first step to getting native OS support over time. We believe this will help accelerate adoption of FCoE.”

The FCoE standard was proposed in April, and full ratification is expected next year. Plawner said he expects customer adoption to begin soon after, thanks to a head start by storage vendors.

“The ASICs have already been baked,” he said.

Plawner said he doesn’t expect FCoE to replace Fibre Channel storage, at least not anytime soon, but he does expect it to flourish as another way to connect servers to SANs.

“We don’t think it will create a monumental shift, other than making it easier to connect Fibre Channel to servers,” he said.

Plawner said he expects every server to ship FCoE ready by 2009, just as iSCSI is native in all servers today. He expects most customers to use standard LAN adapters instead of HBA.

An initiator is code that establishes or initiates a session with a source target and helps send data to the target.

“In the Fibre Channel world today, there are various proprietary stacks from the hardware vendors, and there can be issues around interoperability,” Plawner said. “In the Ethernet world, we are used to having as much support natively in the operating system for whatever feature we’re talking about. Our goal in the FCoE world is to make source code available to OS vendors, and we’re starting with Linux so there can be a native FCoE stack.”

FCoE itself is also not a departure from core Fibre Channel in terms of its core data structure.

“The most important point about FCoE is that it doesn’t change the Fibre Channel frame,” Plawner explained. “You’re simply moving the Fibre Channel traffic onto a different fabric. You’re not taking apart the Fibre Channel frames.”

Since FCoE looks like regular Fibre Channel traffic, an enterprise’s security and traffic management infrastructure will work across FCoE fabric as well as the FC fabric.

“It becomes seamless to adopt and is very evolutionary and not revolutionary,” Plawner said.

The decision to go open source with the FCoE initiator was a calculated one by Intel.

“We’re developing the code for our own products and we didn’t have to open source this,” Plawner said. “We took the more strategic view that it would benefit everybody, especially the adoption of FCoE, if we open source the code. So we’re picking up the social cost of improving and accelerating FCoE adoption.”

Plawner admitted that by going open source, which can be used by anyone, the FCoE initiator benefits Intel’s competitors too. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“I hope our competitors start helping us with the enablement effort,” said Robert Love, Intel’s leader of the Open FCoE project.

The FCoE effort is not intended to displace native Fibre Channel, iSCSI or other storage fabrics.

“It’s a matter of choice,” Plawner explained. “It provides another way for people to connect existing servers to Fibre Channel SANs. In iSCSI, you have choice, and we are planning to bring that same choice to the Fibre Channel world.” contributed to this report.

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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