Thousands of technology and channel partners are attending the annual VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) in Las Vegas this week. Despite a tough competitive marketplace (see Market Leader Under Attack: VMware), virtualization in general, and VMware specifically, is a significant driver to infrastructure considerations for modern data centers. VMware solutions are pushing into mission-critical application that require the most stable, scalabl,e and high-performing networks. Fibre channel remains the top protocol for VMware deployments in enterprises today.
The market is now reaching the point that end-to-end 16Gb FC can be deployed. FC adoption typically takes two-to-three years to roll out through switches, adapters, and storage arrays. Additionally, the servers must support sufficient bandwidth - such as with the Intel Romley platform - and applications need to push the performance envelope. Since server virtualization treats resources in pools and tries to maximize efficiency, these environments can take advantage of the new speeds. Brocade switches and Emulex adapters have been shipping for over a year, now QLogic is not only shipping its 16Gb solution, but also has many design wins for storage arrays that will soon be shipping 16Gb (see FC and Ethernet as a Single Solution Set for a discussion on how PMC exiting the FC market is shifting some of the market). As the storage arrays supporting 16Gb FC start hitting the market, Cisco will probably release 16Gb FC on switches. Note that inside Cisco’s server, the UCS uses FCoE, so the 10Gb Ethernet adapters can work seamlessly with FC infrastructure.
In addition to the speed bump, the adapters are taking advantage of the latest enhancements in both VMware vSphere 5.1 and Windows Server 2012. Features such as Quality of Service (QoS) and NPIV extend the value of virtual environments and allow for a dense, highly efficient network geared for a heavily virtualized data center.
Action Item: Today’s virtualization architect has a wide variety of tools to create a scalable and flexible data center. FC remains a trusted substrate for building storage networks and 16Gb FC is an incremental enhancement that can seamlessly move into any existing FC environments. As mentioned in previous articles, the line between FC and Ethernet will continue to blur so that users can buy the latest components and choose the appropriate protocol based on the needs of the deployment.