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January 28, 2011 • Vol.33 Issue 2
Page(s) 23 in print issue

Fibre Channel Over Ethernet
Reducing Network Complexity
There has to be a logical evolutionary step for converging Ethernet networks and Fibre Channel for storage-area networks, without a downside. FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) answers this need by reducing network complexity in the data center. FCoE, a storage networking protocol that supports Fibre Channel natively over Ethernet, encapsulates Fibre Channel frames into Ethernet frames, allowing them to run alongside traditional IP traffic.

Key Points

• Fibre Channel over Ethernet encapsulates Fibre Channel frames into Ethernet frames, allowing them to run alongside traditional IP traffic.

• Converged networking enables network consolidation and network bandwidth provisioning for applications on demand, increasing business agility.

• Moving to a unified, converged infrastructure can be done gradually. FCoE does not require a disruptive deployment and can be implemented in phases on installed storage networks.

Gaining Groundbr>
According to Saqib Jang, with the data center products group at Brocade (, the interest in FCoE is tied to the overall trend toward data center I/O consolidation. “Simply put, I/O consolidation is the ability of a host bus adapter, switch, or storage system to use the same 10GbE physical infrastructure to carry data, storage, and cluster networking traffic having typically very different characteristics and handling requirements,” Jang explains. On the network infrastructure side, he says, this equates to installing and operating a single network capable of handling the throughput, latency, and reliability requirements of different types of traffic.

Deirdre Wassell, director of solutions marketing at EMC (, says that with FCoE, servers can deploy CNAs (converged network adapters) and utilize an Ethernet cable. “Costs savings, therefore, come in the form of server adapters, cables, and power and cooling,” Wassell says. “FCoE is also gaining attention because storage vendors now have native support for FCoE. Also, virtualized server environments can take advantage of the increased bandwidth FCoE provides.”

Data Center Impact

According to Henry Baltazar, senior storage analyst with The 451 Group, the transition to FCoE will not be an easy one. “SANs are deployed and managed by storage administrators, while IP networks are run by separate networking teams,” he says. “The largest obstacle to FCoE adoption will be driven by various political questions such as ‘Who is responsible for (or funding) the deployment?,’ ‘How do we deal with patch management?,’ ‘How do we get storage and networking teams to collaborate?,’ and ‘How do we secure the unified network?’”

FCoE’s impact on business agility will be huge because deploying a converged network enables network consolidation and facilitates network bandwidth provisioning for applications on demand, says Shaun Walsh, vice president of marketing at Emulex ( “It also complements server virtualization deployments (which enables higher efficiencies and agility inherently) and enables IT organizations to dynamically respond to changing business demands through rapid provisioning of application and infrastructure services from shared pools of consolidated compute, storage, and network resources,” Walsh explains.

Looking to the future, Jang says enterprises with existing Fibre Channel SANs are likely to continue adding to their Fibre Channel environments, taking advantage of newer, higher-speed Fibre Channel SAN technologies in a nondisruptive fashion.

by Chris A. MacKinnon

Gradual Deployment

TThe idea of switching to a new network infrastructure can seem daunting, but one of the biggest benefits of Fibre Channel over Ethernet is that it does not require the SME to gut its existing infrastructure and start from scratch.

According to ash Shaikh, senior manager of data center switching at Cisco (, FCoE deployment can be broken down with a phased approach and multistep journey. Shaikh explains, “Moving to a unified and simplified converged infrastructure can be done gradually—FCoE does not require a ‘rip and replace’ or disruptive deployment; it can be implemented in phases nondisruptively on installed storage networks.”

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