Posts Tagged FCoE
At Interop in NYC, I had the pleasure in participating in “The Great Debate: iSCSI beats FC”. Conference track chair, Mike Fratto pulled in Howard Marks, Stephen Foskett and me to have a little fun with a topic that all of us have been discussing and debating for a decade. Stephen and I were asked to take dogmatic positions (I supported FC and the NY Yankees while Stephen defended iSCSI and his beloved Red Sox) while Howard Marks was tasking with moderating (keeping us honest and bringing in the questions). There were great questions from the in-person and remote (video/Twitter) audiences. There was a clear winner, watch the video below to find out [all 3 of us shared our recommendations for making the FC/iSCSI decision after the vote].
The storage industry is notoriously slow at adopting change. So, how does the storage industry continue to innovate while not failing on the mission of storing, protecting and extracting value from data? In my last post, I looked at how server and desktop virtualization are forcing functions for evolving the role of the storage administrator. Convergence solutions (both network and full stack solutions) are blurring the lines between the silos and moving many IT practitioners towards the role of an IT generalist. This transition will better management tools, training and a desire for companies to change.
The networking space is in the midst of significant changes. The starting point is the transition to higher speeds, with most customers finally moving to 10Gb Ethernet (almost a decade after the standard was ratified), and 40Gb and 100Gb solutions starting to become available. But the real drivers that make networking strategic to IT are the trends of virtualization, convergence and cloud. As has been the case for the last decade, the conversation of the marketplace starts with Cisco. Cisco has been talking about “Data Center 3.0” for over three years; today’s Cisco announcement (here’s the PR) is delivering on a number of pieces of the vision. As Cisco pushes into adjacent server market, it finds the networking marketplace more competitive than it has been in many years.
In the storage networking space, convergence has been the hot topic for the last four years. I will be attending SNW in 2 weeks and a quick look at the agenda shows that “converged” or “unified” trail only “cloud” in buzzword bingo. I wrote recently about how FCoE sales are doing well in embedded and rack-based solutions. While the move to Ethernet based storage networks is growing, there are many things that customers and vendors can do to accelerate this transition. The storage industry is notoriously slow to change and this is about more than just a protocol transition (which always take much longer than anticipated). The imperative for companies to adopt converged infrastructure is that CIOs are under tremendous pressures to lower costs, IT must compete with cloud pricing models and staffs are increasingly moving from specialists to generalists. While some customers will wait until FCoE ships as part of a standard configuration (expect more LOM solutions when Intel’s Sandy Bridge servers roll out), here are my recommendations for the industry on accelerating convergence.
For years, I’ve heard people talk about the fact that Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) is a technology that only Cisco is pushing or that it is a push by a dying Fibre Channel (FC) industry to extend product lives for a few more years. First of all, FC is still doing well (recent earnings from Brocade, Emulex and QLogic were all positive) and any transition from FC to Ethernet will still take many years (see my 2011 storage networking predictions). This week there were significant announcements by Intel and HP that reinforce that converged networking is much more than a Cisco initiative. FCoE will still be a minor player in the overall SAN market this year, but the ecosystem and customer adoption continue to move forward.
Commoditization of IT, moving to more standardized components is a force that affects every product line across the industry. Looking at the details of any server or storage device will show the impact that Intel has had. Network switches have specialized chip designs that differ from processors, but face the same competitive pressures of creating new generations of products at a lower cost with more functionality. The move to standard switch components has moved significantly over the last decade and is creating a shift in the economics of the switch market. Specifically, hardware value is flowing from the switch vendors (Cisco) to suppliers of switch silicon (Marvell, Broadcom, QLogic). The implication is that to maintain margins, switch manufacturers will need to look for alternative value streams.
Today in NYC, QLogic launched a new product line – a 10Gb Intelligent Ethernet adapter, Converged Network Adapter and Converged LOM – and presented their strategy to financial analysts. While a third generation product family announcement may not sound exciting, QLogic’s announcement of converged networking products is not just another turn of the crank. The solutions that can be deployed increase the FCoE ecosystem and give customers and vendors unprecedented flexibility for 10Gb Ethernet solutions. QLogic also shared its vision the full data center portfolio including security and virtualization components.
This morning there were two announcements, that were really non-announcements, related to FCoE:
Summary of Remarks from QLogic CEO H.K.Desai
QLogic reported a Net Revenue of $142.6M, “a 16% increase in net revenue and a significant increase in profitability from the first quarter of last year” and seeing growth on FC HBAs, InfiniBand and Converged Network products. Gross Margin corporate average sits around 65% (forecast for the next quarter is 65.5%-66%). Some general macro economic “nervousness”, especially in Europe.
What is the best protocol for virtualized environments? For years we’ve been hearing arguments for NFS, iSCSI and FC (and more recently FCoE). This week HP sent a strong message with their Virtual Connect Flex Fabric launch that the answer is YES! In the new BladeSystem G7, customers can Wire Once and support NFS, iSCSI, FCoE or FC. This is an industry first for a switch module which can dynamically support FC and Ethernet.
There is a great write-up of the new BladeSystem G7 on Kevin Houston’s Blades Made Simple blog (the photo above is also from his site).