UPDATED June 10th, 2009 to incorporate more on lossless Ethernet (was in “read more” section, pulled to front)
Congratulations to everyone who worked on the standard.
The FCoE standard celebrates its one week anniversary today - the T11 standards body ratified FCoE as a standard in FC-BB-5 on Wednesday June 3rd.
I’m not so much an FCoE true believer so much as I am an Ethernet true believer. Coming to EMC from an iSCSI startup – I guess it was in the watercooler :-) As I’ve interacted with more customers, I’ve gained a better understanding on why FCoE is important. It offers a chance for a unified interconnect – covering a gamut of use cases. Since all FCoE adapters are by definition Converged Network adapters – customer can use one, and use it for 10GbE LAN, 10GbE NAS, 10GbE iSCSI, and Fibre Channel via FCoE.
I still stick by the bet I made with Chuck (come on iSCSI!) – he and I disagree often, but boy the conversation is always be fun :-)
And you can see I’ve been interested in this for some time:
(BTW – this was June 2008 - was after a couple of months of being “deep dive” introed to what was at that point the very confidential Cisco project codenamed California)
So why is it important? On it’s own – iSCSI does not offer what FCoE brings to the table – a real chance for all current use cases/workloads - to consolidate the networks (by eliminating the “but what about this host here”… excuse) which in turn enables reductions in cable and port count, lower space/power requirements, and enable getting to a “cable once” (at least within major generational changes) model.
This doesn’t mean I’m saying iSCSI is bad or even “not as good” as FCoE. iSCSI is undoubtedly less expensive, and runs on a much, much broader set of equipment. iSCSI is the fastest growing storage segment by a long shot for all these reasons, and is often the protocol of choice for customers with no existing shared storage infrastructure. EMC is (and certainly I count myself in that) a huge iSCSI supporter. However, iSCSI does fundamentally have lossy characteristics (using TCP retransmits for data integrity), longer TCP/IP timeout characteristics and other But, without being able to cover the remaining use cases for FC – there wouldn’t be an opportunity for convergence of transport. FCoE is that opportunity.
Now, there’s still more work to be done – as St0ragebear pointed out in the comments, and I think it’s worth pulling up to the front part of this article. First of all – now that the T11 standard is complete, there are other steps for it to become an ANSI standard – including a public review period. The bigger point I had originally in the “read more” section, but I will pull up here. Lossless Ethernet (CEE, DCE, IEEE Datacenter Bridging) is still not a standard, and this will take more time. This is an important part of the FCoE idea. The IEEE 802.1Qbb (Priority Flow Control) project is approved, but the standard is not done. You can find more about that here: http://www.ieee802.org/1/pages/dcbridges.html … Now back to the original text….
I’m a glutton for punishment and love this stuff – it’s fascinating to look back at the minutes, see the progress, who’s driving what, seeing company names change (Nuova Systems). You can see that all here: http://www.t11.org/t11/docreg.nsf/gfcoemi?OpenView. It’s an easy way to see who’s driving, who’s participating (and how actively) and who’s following – at least from an engineering and standards standpoint.
Stuart Miniman from our office of the CTO (who was part of the standard process) does a very good video update on FCoE (including examples of Qlogic Gen 1 and Gen 2 Converged Network Adapters or CNAs):
What does this have to do with VMware? VMware is one of the earliest, most potent use cases for FCoE and 10GbE generally. I said it back in June 2008 (and have said as much at various VMworld sessions with Cisco and VMware) and I’ll say it again – massive consolidation, coupled with massive multicore and huge cheap RAM moves bottlenecks to the server I/O layer. It’s fun to look back a year later and be borne out by what’s happened since.
EMC has been supporting FCoE for some time, and now with the standard ratified, it’s exciting times!
Read on for more gory details!