Jason Blosil has over 15 years of industry experience in finance, marketing, and product management. He is employed at NetApp as a product marketing manager in the core software group and volunteers as the chair of SNIA’s Ethernet Storage Forum (ESF).
Ethernet network technology originated in the 80’s, back when I was sporting a Members Only jacket and a feathered haircut. Since that time, Ethernet has evolved into the de facto standard for Local Area Networks (LAN) and is now establishing a stronger position in the data center. Ethernet is evolving, but has never really gone “out of style.” (My Members Only jacket, on the other hand, has long ago made it to the Goodwill bin).
The evolution of Ethernet now includes support for multiple traffic types, such as voice, video, file data, and block data. Ethernet based storage networks, supporting iSCSI and NAS traffic, enjoy increased adoption in data centers, especially for use with highly virtualized server environments. In terms of market share, traditional Fibre Channel networks still represent the largest market for storage area networks (SAN). However, IP storage networks as a whole are growing at a much faster clip at the expense of traditional Fibre Channel networks. Rather than continue to maintain diverse technologies in the data center, organizations are looking for more efficient ways to manage their sprawling data center infrastructures, and new technologies are needed to make the transition.
The introduction of Fibre Channel over Ethernet presents an opportunity to consolidate Ethernet and Fibre Channel data center networks onto a single shared 10Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) infrastructure, delivering increased efficiency and performance, as well as simplified management and lower overall cost. Most implementations of FCoE require dedicated HBAs or Converged Network Adapters (CNA) that run the FCoE protocol stack on an embedded processor. Another approach, however, is to move the FCoE stack onto the server CPU using a native software initiator integrated into the operating system.
Overview of Open FCoE Initiator Solution with Intel 10GbE CNA
Intel, a leader in Ethernet networking devices, is pioneering the use of native initiators for FCoE at the host with Open FCoE. Open FCoE follows the same model as iSCSI software initiators, using standard data center bridging (DCB) enabled 10GbE adapters and CNAs to transport the FCoE protocol generated by a software driver integrated in the operating system or hypervisor and running on the host CPU. Intel is making the bet that the adoption of FCoE will dramatically increase with this design approach, just as it did with iSCSI. This design promises to deliver substantial reductions in cost while also simplifying the management and configuration of FCoE deployments.
NetApp and Intel are working closely together to drive 10GbE and FCoE adoption to market with solutions like Open FCoE and Ethernet storage. Our partnership with Intel benefits from years of development, research, and market leadership. NetApp has been shipping 10GbE storage systems since 2006, and was the first to offer FCoE storage in 2009. In 2010, we were the first to introduce Unified Connect, which includes support for FCoE and IP protocols (iSCSI, NFS, CIFS) over a shared 10GbE wire making it possible to deploy a converged Ethernet network, end to end, from server to switch to storage. No other vendor can make that claim.
Converged data center networking is a reality with many options available in the market. For many, network convergence is still very new, and strong technology partnerships will help eliminate risks and enable successful technology transitions. So get ready. The transition is coming. And we’ll let time tell if IT trends such as the adoption of Open FCoE will be as interesting to observe as fashion trends. Yeah.