Cisco responds to our Interop FCoE story

Guess there wasn't enough Cisco content in our FCoE coverage from Interop -- not enough for Cisco's liking anyway. Company PR found it necessary to respond to our story that, while FCoE was a hot topic at the show, it's a tad premature to get all lathered about it.

In an e-mail to Network World, Cisco says FCoE standards are "much farther along than is represented" in our story. Cisco says the FCoE draft standard achieved Technical stability at the T11 meeting on October 2008. No major technical changes are expected after technical stability. 

What's more, the FCoE draft standard entered Approval Phase on October 2008, with a letter ballot issued on it, Cisco replied. The letter ballot closed on November 14, 2008 and passed.

"At this point, the committee began resolving the received comments," the Cisco e-mail states.

T11 expects to complete comments resolution and to forward the FCoE standard to ANSI for final publication at the June 2009 meeting, the e-mail asserts.

Two issues, though: the standards in question in our story refer mostly to the IEEE Data Center Bridging work, which won't be solid until March 2010, according to the IEEE. The T11 standards map FibreChannel onto a 10Gbps Ethernet link; the IEEE's DCB makes sure that Ethernet is robust enough not to drop those FibreChannel frames.

The second issue is FCoE cost, which Cisco did not address in its e-mail nor did it disclose when it unveiled the Nexus 5000 FCoE switch. Vendors at Interop said the cost of FCoE must come down in order for mainstream adoption to occur.

So Cisco, what is the per port cost of FCoE on your Nexus switches? We are still waiting for a response to that question as we write this. We are not holding our breath, however.

Pure FibreChannel costs $1100 to $1800 per 4Gbps port. 10G Ethernet costs about $500 per port everywhere but at Cisco, where it lists for $900 per port on the Nexus 5000 switch.

Nonetheless, Cisco says it has 400 customers deploying FCoE in production mode across a range of vertical markets: government, IT, healthcare, manufacturing, media, financial services, telcos, and service providers. Quoting from the Cisco e-mail:

Customers tell us they are deploying FCoE so rapidly because:

§         The technology is simple to understand and is non-disruptive.

§         FCoE helps to solve these challenges: cabling, power and cooling, infrastructure footprint (data center space), simplified infrastructure and operations, reduced cost in Capex (cables and adapters) and Opex (power, cooling, management).

So while the rest of the industry currently detects tepid demand for FCoE due to standards, cost and economic issues, Cisco notes a healthy appetite for it. Then again, when were incomplete standards and high pricing ever an issue for Cisco?

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