I was in Almaty, Kazakhstan doing a training on FCoE and I’ve got some questions on the adoption of FCoE technology. Should we move? When? Why?
Fibre Channel over Ethernet is a technology that allow connection to a Fibre Channel SAN across an Ethernet network. The technology is quite new and has a lot of requirements.
The requirement on the server is a Converge Network Adapter (CNA). The CNA is a card that will have Fibre Channel and Ethernet capabilities. Most of the models, I’ve seen, have 2 10G Ethernet ports. Multiple types exist. For the high end server, you need a CNA that will process the Fibre Channel protocol on the hardware card. For the low end Servers, you could use card like the Intel Oplin 10G Ethernet card where you could process the Fibre Channel on the Operating System.
Currently not all 10 G Ethernet card have Fibre Channel capabilities. It may require upgrade of the driver or change of the network card.
On the Ethernet Network, you will need to support Data Center Bridging protocols. On the design side, it is recommended that the FCoE network is limited to a part of your Data Center. With the solutions I’ve seen, you don’t have the possibility to do FCoE over the WAN. Even, Multihop FcoE is really limited. All the equipments in your FCoE network need to support FCoE.
The advantage of FCoE is to limit the number of network equipments per row. Instead of having, 2 Ethernet switches and 2 Fibre Channel Fabric, you could have only 2 FCoE equipments. It will allow better integration of your SAN and LAN. And it will lower your cabling, your power and cooling requirements.
Currently, on the standard side, there is some weakness. Data Center Bridging standardization at the IEEE takes some time and interconnection of multiple vendor solution is said to be difficult. Cisco and EMC have tested some solutions with mixed equipments. May be the Fibre Channel Industry Association like the Wi-Fi group should label tested interoperabilities.
Is it time to move ? There is no simple answer. I would not recommend to one of my customer to change all his existing equipments to support FCoE. On the other hand, it could lower the TCO for new server deployment. If a new rack of server is required, I would push FCoE as there is no competition of that solution. FCoE is a good solution because it allows you to move to this technology at your pace. French Version.
This is an entry level post. I will try to do something more technical next time. Please comment and I will amend my post.