Companies will begin serious evaluations of FCoE in early 2009, and that process will probably take a full year, says storage analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. The analyst predicted that deployment of FCoE in production networks won't happen in any great numbers until 2010.
This week's FCoE announcements primarily show that Fibre Channel vendors are making defensive moves against iSCSI competitors like Dell EqualLogic, Taneja said. He explained that Convergence Enhanced Ethernet technology will let Ethernet be equivalent to Fibre Channel transport in that it will not drop packets.
iSCSI, which is typically cheaper than Fibre Channel, will thus ride on top of lossless Ethernet, posing a big problem to Fibre Channel vendors. FCoE was devised to let the Fibre Channel storage protocol take advantage of 10 Gigabit Ethernet networks. (Compare storage products.)
"It's a very strong defensive move on the part of the Fibre Channel community," Taneja says. "If it all goes to iSCSI there is going to be trouble."
Taneja said iSCSI over 10 Gigabit Ethernet will likely progress along the same timeline, with customer evaluation in 2009 and production in 2010. If iSCSI became the dominant protocol, Emulex in particular would feel financial pain because it relies so heavily on revenue from Fibre Channel host bus adapters, he said.
This week, EMC introduced its first FCoE switch at the conference. The EMC Connectrix NEX-5020 switch is generally available, as are converged network adapters from Emulex and QLogic that work in tandem with the switch, EMC says.
"Based on the Cisco Nexus 5000 Series Switches for data centers, the Connectrix NEX-5020 provides line-rate, low-latency, lossless 10Gbps Ethernet switching for network connectivity," EMC states. "It is designed to meet the ever-increasing I/O demands of multicore processors, VMware Infrastructure and other virtualized server and SAN environments.
FCoE can help simplify server and network infrastructure by reducing the number of cables and adapters required for network connectivity, which in turn reduces power consumption and overall data center costs."
Separately, NetApp announced that it will offer support for native FCoE storage through an FCoE Target Expansion Card that will be available in December for various FAS and V-Series storage systems. The list price is $3,000.
The FCoE standard reached a milestone recently when it moved from the development phase to the review phase in the T11 standards body, NetApp said. "FCoE extends Fibre Channel into the Ethernet environment, combining two leading technologies to provide customers with more options for SAN connectivity and networking," NetApp says.
NetApp also announced support for the Cisco Nexus 5020 switch, which will be available in November and is built for FCoE, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and Convergence Enhanced Ethernet.
Despite the announcements from EMC and NetApp, typical Fibre Channel customers are more focused on 4Gbps Fibre Channel and upgrades to 8Gbps Fibre Channel products, Taneja says.
"Essentially today people are in evaluation mode, and the majority of that evaluation work is being done by vendors," Taneja says. "End users are barely starting to get a feel for what's happening here."