Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My FCoE Light Bulb Moment - FCoE Isn't So Scary After All

Have you ever had one those moments where the light bulb just goes off for something and you just see everything differently? I had that kind of light bulb moment with FCoE Sunday evening. Now that I've had a bit of time to digest it, I wanted to share some thoughts. This all starts from Twitter conversations with Brad Hedlund and Steve Chambers.

I could post a whole bunch of quotes but here are the statements that came out of it.

  • Some people view(ed) FCoE as a replacement for FC - If so, the big objection with FCoE is probably that it isn't multi-hop capable and FC is. If FCoE is "FC 2.0" and it isn't multi-hop, then it isn't as good, Right?? But, do I NEED multi-hop today? My knee jerk answer is yes, otherwise it isn't as good! But, how many people are going to fork life upgrade their mature and costly FC infrastructure? Not many I'd bet. So, If FCoE is a transition technology then we can roll it in slowly at the edge and transition the multi-hop FC infrastructure to FCoE over time as the features are added and the product matures. What's so bad about that?
  • Some people see FCoE as a convergence of the physical layers of network and FC - It may be sad but I never considered this. I was caught up on the statement above. If it isn't as good as FC, I didn't want to hear about it. Once I got over that point, you do have a nice savings here in the convergence. One thing I LOVE about UCS is how clean everything is. The simplicity is top notch. More about that in another article.
  • Some people equate(d) Cisco UCS with FCoE - Cisco UCS isn't FCoE, it is 10GB. It could be FCoE, iSCSI, NFS, etc. As Steve stated, it's all about the AND instead of the OR with Cisco UCS. I think the reason for this is because Cisco is pushing Nexus and FCoE so hard along with UCS. You can't speak to Cisco about one and not get the other. But, at the end of the day, you don't NEED Nexus and FCoE... (gasp! what did I just say!?!?)
To continue the point from my previous article on the subject, what about Cisco UCS over 10GB NFS to the storage for VMware? As I've stated before, this solution to is actually cleaner on the NetApp side and the transport layer is easier to set up. I can't wait to test this configuration!


Unknown said...

Aaron, I agree, your concern about FCoE replacing FC seems to be widespread. But that concern misses the immediate objective of FCoE... which is to enable I/O virtualization.

FCoE provides a protocol to converge I/O to a single interconnect. Once you've done that, you can share that interconnect among multiple "virtual NICs" and "virtual HBAs". Which means the service (server connectivity) has been de-coupled from the physical infrastructure that's very difficult to modify.

Cisco created FCoE for this purpose.

Xsigo has been shipping for 2 years another virtual I/O solution that does not rely on FCoE, but has the same objective.

At VMworld this year, VMware ran all their servers on virtual I/O. And everything in their booth ran on Xsigo virtual I/O. So FCoE is one way of getting at the I/O problem, but it's not the only way. Nor is it the fastest or most cost effective!

Anonymous said...

@JonT, Cisco did not *create* FCoE. FCoE is an industry standard and multiple companies have put a lot of effort into it....

Aaron Delp said...

I agree that Cisco didn't create FCoE but they are the ones pushing it hard every where you go today.

I do believe that without Cisco, FCoE is unlikely to take off as quickly. Cisco is great at taking a market segment and dominating over time with the right technology choices.

Time will tell...

Anonymous said...

I guess if you only talk to Cisco people, it may seem like they are leading the FCoE charge -- you need to get out more, meet some new people. ;-)
The fact is, Cisco has less than 30% market share in STORAGE networking after many years of trying -- so much for "dominating" that industry.
Re: http://bit.ly/146WRO

Aaron Delp said...

anon - A couple of comments about that. What is Cisco good at? They are great at "moving" industries to their advantage. With Cisco UCS and Nexus, they know have a solution.

As for listening to Cisco people. I work for one of the largest Cisco resellers in the Unites States. Hard not to listen to Cisco ;)