NetApp First to Market with FCoE Storage Arrays

NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) today became the first data storage vendor to offer native FCoE connectivity in its storage systems with the addition of QLogic (NASDAQ: QLGC) CNAs into its FAS and V-Series devices.

NetApp sees Fibre Channel over Ethernet as a way for Fibre Channel users to build out Ethernet infrastructures while preserving their FC investments — and the company sees itself as well-positioned for the trend with its IP-based storage pedigree.

NetApp and its FCoE partners — a list that also includes Brocade (NASDAQ: BRCD) and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) — see FCoE beginning to catch on with storage users.

NetApp noted one early sign of SAN-LAN network convergence: The company’s 10GbE target port shipments have more than doubled in the last year, from 3,000 to more than 7,500.

Patrick Rogers, NetApp’s vice president of solutions marketing, sees that number doubling again over the next year — and he sees Ethernet-based storage eventually overtaking Fibre Channel.

“Ethernet always wins, and we’ll provide the best transition to get you there,” said Rogers, who nonetheless said that NetApp is gaining share in the FC SAN market.

“In the end, economics always wins out,” he added.

Rogers said customers are “in the early stages of adoption” with FCoE, and he expects the market to pick up over the next year. Native storage support for FCoE was “the missing piece of the convergence puzzle,” he said, and he expects other vendors to follow with end-to-end FCoE solutions. NetApp also plans to add NAS and iSCSI to the convergence picture eventually.

Rogers said that cloud computing and virtualization are driving the trend toward network convergence.

On a report yesterday by Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers that NetApp’s Data ONTAP 8.0 operating system and a FAS6000 refresh are coming soon, Rogers confirmed that the new operating system is on its way, but he declined to confirm the FAS6000 report. “Stay tuned for the briefing,” he said.

NetApp will also release its quarterly earnings report next week.

While customers are in the early stages of FCoE adoption, NetApp did provide a statement from one early adopter.

“We have been testing our new FCoE infrastructure over the last few months and have been impressed most by the performance,” Howard Eddy, vice president of information technology at Subaru New England, said in a statement. “For instance, we are seeing over 75 percent greater performance on SQL versus our existing DAS solution. We have also been able to dramatically reduce our overall complexity for our storage and networking by streamlining down to a single network technology: Ethernet.”

NetApp also offers Cisco Nexus 5000 Series switches and Brocade switches, blades and CNAs, and Emulex (NYSE: ELX) CNAs will also likely be added eventually.

The Brocade 8000 FCoE switch and the Brocade CNAs will be available from NetApp this month, while the new Brocade FCoE blade for the DCX and DCX-4S is expected to be available next month.

Brocade Senior Product Marketing Manager Ahmad Zamer said the company is seeing a “very high level of interest” in FCoE from customers. They have tested the technology, know where they want to deploy it and are moving toward proof of concept, he said.

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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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