Fibre Channel's savior may have its own problems

Connecting the majority of servers to through FCoE without a plan to manage generates problems

Last week, while attending the Spring Storage Networking World in Orlando the big news was, believe it or not, storage networking. In this case, multiple vendors are touting Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) as storage networking's future.

In talking to users and vendors alike, the general consensus is that about 15 per cent of existing enterprise servers are attached to Fibre Channel SANs. These servers generally generate the most read/write traffic, are the fastest growing from a capacity perspective or a combination of both. However the majority of enterprise servers are not attached to any kind of Fibre Channel SAN simply because the costs still exceed whatever benefits that Fibre Channel provides.

FCoE theoretically changes that. FCoE's premise is that it provides enterprise data centers an economical method to connect their remote, standalone servers to their existing Fibre Channel infrastructure. The theory goes that because enterprise storage systems are already Fibre Channel attached and by using FCoE and new products like Cisco's Nexus 5000, companies can access and manage their existing storage system resources.

Now generally I am great believer in EoE (Everything over Ethernet) but FCoE has all of the makings of a really bad idea. Companies are already struggling to manage their existing storage infrastructure simply because storage management and virtualization tools have not kept pace with the complexities that their Fibre Channel existing infrastructure creates.

Bringing the remaining 85 per cent of corporate servers into the corporate Fibre Channel SAN infrastructure without a corresponding plan to virtualize and manage the storage and network traffic is fraught with problems. Toss in the fact that companies need a new type of network card and 10Gbit/sec. cabling, and that normally competing vendors are suddenly aligned, and the question becomes: Who benefits the most from your companies' adoption of FCoE, vendors or you?

Jerome Wendt is the president and lead analyst at DCIG. You may read his blogs at www.dciginc.com.

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