What’s the Protocol Here?

Based on today’s story on SearchStorage’ Storage Soup blog, wanted to take a quick minute and clarify a few points.

Dell’s position on FCoE is that it will be a useful bridge for Fibre Channel (FC) customers hoping to consolidate LANs and SANs. This is especially valuable for blade server environments. With 10GbE FCoE, customers with 2 and 4 Gbps FC SANs can consolidate their network infrastructures and reduce the ports/cables that they need to manage. Their investment in FC management software and skills is also protected.  Dell is committed to providing FCoE infrastructure to support our many Dell/EMC customers who have large Fibre Channel installations.

That said, it is also helpful to take a holistic perspective on FCoE. For the coming wave of SMBs and Enterprises who have not widely deployed FC and for project-based SANs for Virtualization, there is a very compelling case for iSCSI. Why?

1. iSCSI is better for virtualization, a key driver for our acquisition of EqualLogic;

2. iSCSI is also great for disaster recovery because it is built on TCP, is routable and therefore enables less complex, easier to implement DR deployments;

3. FCoE requires new, unique equipment, iSCSI does not:

a. iSCSI runs over any industry standard Ethernet switches. FCoE will require 1) 10GbE DCE-capable switches between the host storage and 2) the addition of an FCoE bridge (or switch with integrated FCoE bridge);

b. iSCSI runs on standard Ethernet adapters. For Windows, FCoE will require customers to buy a 10GbE Converged Network Adapter (CNA) for FCoE and LAN traffic. CNAs are forecast to be higher cost than standard 10Gbps Ethernet Adapters/LOMs and even 10Gbps iSCSI HBAs.

At this point in time, FCoE is a work in progress. Because it’s new, it’s getting a lot of attention from media and analysts.

A recent Forrester survey of Fibre Channel customers showed that 62 percent of them had plans to adopt iSCSI in the near term while only eight percent of respondents were very interested in FCoE. Of the respondents that cited interest in FCoE, only 25 percent planned to use it as a long term SAN protocol solution.  The remaining 75 percent planned to use it either as a bridge to an iSCSI SAN (39 percent) or as a tier in a SAN including FCoE and iSCSI (36 percent).

What do you think? Have you deployed iSCSI and, if so, what were the reasons you chose that technology? Still an FC shop? Let us know why.

About the Author: Travis Vigil

Travis Vigil is Senior Vice President leading Portfolio and Product Management for Dell’s Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG). He and his team are responsible for the Product, Offer and APEX (as-a-Service) Roadmap for Dell’s Server, Storage, Data Protection, CI/HCI, Networking, and Solutions portfolios. He has over 20 years of Product Management, Marketing and Business Operations experience with technology companies including Dell and Intel. In previous roles at Dell, he served as Senior Vice President for Storage & Data Protection Product Management, and Senior Vice President for Business Operations focused on Dell’s Server, Storage and Networking Business with commercial customers. He has a B.S. from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.