This morning there were two announcements, that were really non-announcements, related to FCoE:
- Cisco and NetApp Unveil End-to-End FCoE Solution with VMware for the Dynamic Data Center in a press release
- EMC started shipping Ethernet switches from Cisco and Brocade (Foundry products) according to EnterprisePlanetIT.com
Neither of these announcements contains anything new other than EMC is announcing that it is delivering on time and NetApp/Cisco/VMware are announcing certification. EMC announced the strategic direction to sell Ethernet switches at EMC World in May (see my blog post which supported the launch, Disclaimer: I worked for EMC at the time), it is delivering on the promise to ship in Q3. The NetApp announcement formalizes the completion of certification of its native FCoE array through a Cisco Nexus 5000 in a VMware environment (I posted about the VMware support in my 4.1 storage networking update). Both EMC and NetApp are looking to claim leadership in the converged network space. Where do these announcements bring us and where are we on the adoption of FCoE?
EMC: Will customers buy Ethernet-only products from EMC? This is the big question. For enterprise customers, the adoption of 10Gb Ethernet by the networking team will happen prior to any discussion of deploying FCoE. There needs to be collaboration between the networking and storage teams to adopt FCoE and in cases where there is good communication, EMC has an opportunity to advise and sell product. EMC has been a leading supplier of Fibre Channel gear for over a decade, but translating that into Ethernet gear sales will be challenging. Cisco products are heavily distributed (over 90% through their channel) and channel conflict between EMC and the other partners is a significant challenge. There is less competition with the Brocade (Foundry) Ethernet products, but there is also less customer demand and a current lack of FCoE support in the Ethernet products. EMC’s offerings are led by the service organization; EMC is trusted to build large SAN configurations, can it translate this into a viable Ethernet business? The networking market is much larger than the storage networking market and EMC will face strong competition from large services organizations including IBM and HP (EDS). EMC is well positioned for FCoE, but there is a real threat that it will not be able to replace its Fibre Channel networking revenue as the market converts to Ethernet.
NetApp: NetApp may claim the first end-to-end solution for FCoE in a VMware environment (NetApp >> Cisco Nexus 5000 >> VMware server), but I question how meaningful this configuration other than as a test environment. If a configuration is small enough that a single top-of-rack switch can support the solution, why would a NetApp customer go through FCoE? The early FCoE configurations that I see are a Nexus 5000 connected to an existing FC SAN which provides the scalability of the solution. For the solution to be more interesting, the core Nexus 7000 switch needs to be in the mix. Support of FCoE with the Nexus 7000 is expected in Q3 according to the announcements made at Cisco Live last month. Also, support of Cisco’s UCS directly to native FCoE (which requires a firmware update to the embedded Nexus 6100 switch) is expected in September. NetApp was the default test configuration for iSCSI and it can be that for FCoE, but to needs to provide leadership in the configurations being supported and architecture needed to deploy these solutions. The window opportunity to be the “only” end-to-end solution is a small as EMC is expected to support native FCoE on both Symmetrix and CLARiiON product lines in 2010. NetApp had channel partner and customer quotes in the press release, it would be good to hear details on the configurations and how the new environments provide benefits.
Bottom line, the ecosystem for Ethernet-based storage is continuing to grow. The pieces are starting to fall into place for realistic end-to-end FCoE solutions to be deployed by late 2010 or 2011. What really captures my attention are certifications (beyond protocol announcements) around workloads and applications in customer settings. EMC announced Vblock certifications at SAP SAPPHIRE and NetApp/Cisco/VMware have indicated the intent to have Microsoft-based certifications later this year. Customers should look for these, not press releases as tangible evidence of integration value.