Yesterday, we posted a story about Dell’Oro Group’s prediction that Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) sales growth would outpace that of FC by 2011. That report got us lots of great feedback during the preparation of that news item, not all of which could fit in the news article, so here are some raw “deleted scenes” — additional points of view to go with that piece from analysts, users and financial experts.
Jeff Boles, director of validation services and senior analyst for the Taneja Group —
Right now, we have a scattering of fabrics and technologies, and while the promises of FCoE are interesting (if not compelling) for the day to day practitioner, transitioning to this new fabric is a bit more complex than filling your shopping cart on Amazon.com.
What I fully expect to happen is a multi-year integration of converged Ethernet as a broad fabric that joins together the multiple fabric domains in the enterprise data center. Those separate domains – FC, InfiniBand, and even traditional Ethernet – may rapidly become converged in a 10gb core, but will likely keep growing at a steady pace, or at least being maintained with regular equipment replacements. Once a converged core is in place (over years), we’ll likely see new equipment deployments taking place on the converged fabric when it is justified (high I/O demands, cable simplification in large infrastructures).
But a full tilt shift to FCoE as the new fabric, is likely out beyond the 3 year mark for aggressive businesses, and well beyond the 5 year mark for less aggressive businesses. The problem plain and simple, is that many, many businesses are well served by their current fabrics and skillsets, and the transition to converged ethernet, and FCoE, will only get near term adoption when it is fully justified. Many times, existing fabrics and skillsets will outweigh the battle over port prices and power utilization. While CEE/FCoE will change the computing landscape, my expectation is that this will happen in the long term.
Andrew Reichman, senior analyst for Forrester Research —
I’m seeing vendors like Brocade, Cisco, QLogic and NetApp move towards greater support for FCoE. The benefits often include reduction of complexity in cabling, and a longer term desire for simplification of SAN and LAN networking through network convergence. That said, it is likely to take a long time to see the benefits, and require a fairly significant investment in new equipment and re-architecting. I do believe that storage traffic will be on Ethernet at some point, the question is how soon- The FCoE standard has been slow to emerge, which has delayed adoption, but early adopters seem to be getting started now. 2011 seems a bit ambitious for broad adoption beyond FC, but I think it might not be too far off. You do have to remember that storage buyers are extremely conservative and like to see very mature products and architectures before making a big change, but once the momentum gets going, it’s likely to grow rapidly.
Mark Kelleher, Managing Director, Equity Research, Brigantine Advisors —
Dell’Oro isn’t really going out on a limb with its prediction that FCoE will supplant Fibre Channel by 2011 – that’s a common assumption in the storage industry. One converged fabric for all enterprise communications makes a lot of sense. The fibre channel switch and HBA people are moving in that direction, the Ethernet providers are moving in that direction, there’s really no reason it would not. The key difference between FC and Ethernet is that Ethernet can lose packets and take its time to recover, while FC guarantees delivery, and does not drop packets. To port the upper layers of the FC stack onto Ethernet, the Ethernet protocol itself has to be augmented to allow ‘lossless’ transmission of data under certain circumstances. That is all incorporated in FCoE, and the technology is just now reaching the market. Deployment starting now thru next year, widespread adoption by 2011.
Keep an eye on the core FC vendors: Brocade, Emulex, and QLogic. Brocade sells switches (although moving into the host-bus adapter market), while Emulex and QLogic are knows for selling the input/output offload engines that connect servers to FC (host-bus adapters, or HBAs). To connect to Ethernet, servers use “Network Interface Cards”, or NICs. With the new FCoE protocol, those two functions are combined into a “converged network adapter”, or CNA. Sell through of CNAs will tell us how the adoption of FCoE is progressing.
Reinoud Reynders, IT manager at University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium–
I believe very strongly in FCoE. Cisco is pushing this very hard and indeed, they have a strong story. Just one plug for all your I/O (network and SAN) on 10 Gb, 1 switch that separates client access (IP network) [from the] storage network: it’s a great plan.
I will replace my FC-SAN switches [around] Q2 2011. Personally, I believe 2011 is a little bit to early for the [broader industry] cross over, but maybe 2012.
Feel free to add your own perspective in our comments section below!