Vendors hail Fibre Channel over Ethernet spec

New spec proposed to allow the Fibre Channel SAN protocol to run over Ethernet

A group of storage vendors on Thursday proposed the development of a new specification that would allow the Fibre Channel storage-area networking protocol to run over Ethernet.

Among the vendors proposing the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) specification to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) are Brocade, Cisco, EMC, Emulex, IBM, Intel, Nuova Systems, QLogic and Sun.

The vendor proposal would represent the first step toward a converged infrastructure consisting of both Ethernet and Fibre Channel that would be attractive to organizations that already have Fibre Channel SANs but want to run them over existing Ethernet infrastructures. The new Fibre Channel over Ethernet, unlike the iSCSI protocol, which transmits SCSI commands over TCP/IP, is designed for data center use. It will also be deployed in other specialized areas, vendors say.

"You can expect customers with bladed PCs or in high-performance computing who want to put in only one adapter to handle both Ethernet and storage traffic to adopt Fibre Channel over Ethernet," says Doug Ingraham, senior director of product management for Brocade.

FCoE will reduce the packet loss that plagues today's Ethernet networks. Because the Fibre Channel protocol does not tolerate the dropping of frames that Ethernet switches do, it will require the use of Ethernet switches with flow control enabled, says Luca Cafiero, a co-founder of Nuova Systems.

As Ethernet evolves, extensions to the Ethernet protocol that deal with pause mechanisms to ensure packets are not dropped or buffer-to-buffer credits may be implemented. These extensions are being considered by the IEEE.

Analysts applaud the move toward running Fibre Channel over standard Ethernet links.

"Fibre Channel over Ethernet is an interesting convergence point in that at the lowest physical layers, Fibre Channel and Ethernet leverage each others' physical layer work," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst for Storage I/O. "For those customers who are looking to unify their wiring and cabling infrastructures as well as their view of a unified network, Fibre Channel over Ethernet has great potential."

The proposed specification likely would be implemented over 10Gbps Ethernet and require the use of specialized host bus adapters in servers that look to the server like a Fibre Channel adapter and to the network like an Ethernet adapter, says Mike Smith, director of marketing for Emulex.

FCoE differs from iSCSI because it runs over Layer 2 Data Link Ethernet instead of iSCSI. It also differs from the Internet Fibre Channel Protocol and the Fibre Channel over IP protocol, both of which also layer Fibre Channel frames on TCP/IP. Because FCoE runs as a Layer 2 service, it eliminates TCP/IP overhead.

The proposed specification also differs from Cisco's patent application for Data Center or Low Latency Ethernet , which proposes a converged I/O that can carry both Ethernet and Fibre Channel traffic in virtualized lanes, some which carry Ethernet data and allow for the dropping of frames and other lanes for Fibre Channel data, where dropped frames are not tolerated.

ANSI T11 committee members -- the committee responsible for Fibre Channel standards -- expect the proposed specification to be approved in 18 to 24 months and implementation to happen sometime in 2009.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Deni Connor

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?