Storage Soup

Oct 24 2008   1:24PM GMT

Dell prepares for converged networks, FCoE and iSCSI

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

During a conference call with storage reporters today to discuss the future for data center networking, Dell senior storage manager Eric Endebrock pointed to the convergence of Ethernet and Fibre Channel as inevitable. “Change is afoot,” he said. “FCoE is a more straightforward management infrastructure–the next generation of intercommunication for Fibre Channel.”

No suprise there. Practically every FC storage vendor is saying that. But where it gets tricky with Dell is, it dropped $1.4 billion in iSCSI SAN vendor EqualLogic less than a year ago. And where EqualLogic’s PS Series iSCSI SAN arrays fit into the converged picture isn’t clear yet.

“Protocols will not necessarily be the top factor in choosing the next storage system for customers,” Endebrock said. “We get caught up in the latest cool technology trend on [the vendor and press] side, but customers don’t necessarily care about that.” He added that lossless Ethernet “will float all storage boats” and that “customers see a place for all protocols.”

Also, “linking EqualLogic to iSCSI is probably not the best way to think about it–we also provide a scaling architecture and solve higher customer needs–it’s far more than just a protocol discussion.”

So far, Dell spokespeople aren’t willing to go into further detail about what its exact plan is for EqualLogic. “We continue to investigate our options and will support 10 Gigabit Ethernet as well as Data Center Ethernet with EqualLogic. We’re going to watch our customers’ needs and what the customers want,” Endebrock said.

A presentation at Storage Networking World titled “Yes, Fibre Channel and iSCSI Can Coexist” by director of global storage and network marketing Praveen Asthana, offered some clues about how Dell sees it all fitting together. “Mixed is in,” Dell’s Asthana said.  But he identified Ethernet as the glue–whether it’s providing the base layer of the unified network or providing a simple management and monitoring interface for all endpoints on an IP network.

While traditional Fibre Channel offers better performance for business applications than traditional iSCSI, it also offers better performance for streaming applications and high-performance computing (HPC) workloads, Asthana pointed out. But he also projected scale-out iSCSI, especially with 10 GbE, will surpass the performance offered by both earlier protocols.

FCoE is still  a topic that remains in the eye of the beholder. An attempt by FC vendors to stay relevant against 10 GbE? Or Ethernet taking over the data center? Depends on who you talk to.

Bottom line: Dell will support FC as long as it supports Clariion. Endebrock was mostly mum when it came to the relationship with EMC, as addressed by EMC CEO Joe Tucci in the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. “Joe actually laid out that we have a great relationship and we’re actively working together on how to go to market on the best way possible, working on fitting our product lines together. We’re going back to basics and at the ground level refocusing on where we’ve seen success in the past.”

2  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Beth Pariseau
    "While traditional Fibre Channel offers better performance for business applications than traditional iSCSI, it also offers better performance for streaming applications and high-performance computing (HPC) workloads, Asthana pointed out. But he also projected scale-out iSCSI, especially with 10 GbE, will surpass the performance offered by both earlier protocols." I'm not sure if you were excluding PS-Series here from "traditional" iSCSI, since it wasn't clear, but the reality is, iSCSI can offer equal to performance of Fibre Channel for most workloads. It is only on very large block size IO that FC offers better performance. This is seen in streaming HD video applications. Also, recently, IB has owned the HPC world, not Fibre Channel, and still to this day, NAS based products offer the best storage performance for HPC, via clustered/parallel file system solutions. Lustre, GPFS, PVFS2...etc. are the leading storage access points, the back end storage protocol behind storage nodes is not relevant, both iSCSI and FC are being used today, as well as DAS for that matter. I would love to hear about a 10,000 node HPC cluster where the nodes are attached via FC.
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  • Beth Pariseau
    Hi Beth - thanks for joining the conversation today. Just wanted to clarify one thing. The discussion was around protocols and technology that are coming down the pike. EqualLogic is most certainly iSCSI and we were merely trying to say that we have some flexibility in the future regarding the architecture of EqualLogic products. What we definitely were NOT saying is that we are any less committed to EqualLogic. We’re proud to have them as part of the Dell storage portfolio. If your readers would be interested in more discussion on the FCoE and iSCSI topic, we have a recent post here (http://direct2dell.com/insideit/archive/2008/10/24/what-s-the-protocol-here.aspx)
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