On my way into work the other morning, I was contemplating the role of FCoE in the data center when a Toyota Prius passed me at about 90 mph. I had to laugh at the irony of a lead foot driver in one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. It reminded me of Top Gear’s comparison of fuel economy between a Toyota Prius and a BMW M3. (at about 3:30 into the segment).
Then I started to think about relationships between FCoE, Prii (the plural of Prius, seriously?), Fibre Channel, and M3s . It dawned on me... the Prius is a hybrid car (gas/electric) and FCoE is a hybrid network (Fibre Channel and Ethernet). Both were created to drive efficiency and provide economic benefits. On the other hand the M3 is a purpose-built sports car and Fibre Channel is a purpose-built network for storage. They were created to provide the ultimate combination of performance and reliability. Hybrid and purpose-built technologies deliver unique value when used for their intended purpose.
Just because a Prius can go 90+mph doesn’t mean it should. Taking a logical leap, I would suggest that just because FCoE supports multi-hop, right now it’s probably better suited for “edge” top-of-rack and blade deployments. Edge deployments provide cost savings and infrastructure simplification through consolidation of adapters, switches, and cables. Moving beyond edge to end-to-end, multi-hop deployments introduces the complexities of layer 8-9 and technology obstacles. Even Ethernet experts are conflicted with the technology.
It’s taken several generations and many years for Fibre Channel to become a trusted technology in the data center. There are tested and proven architectures that are supporting mission critical applications in the vast majority of the world’s leading businesses. Customers continue to adopt Brocade’s Fibre Channel directors, switches, and adapters in record numbers, demonstrating the strong demand for Fibre Channel solutions.
So which direction should customers go?
“It isn’t what you drive that matters, it’s how you drive it,” opined Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson about the Prius and the M3. The same can be said with the many discussions and flame wars on storage networks and protocols. At the end of the day there isn’t one solution to solve all networking problems. In general, the application requirements should drive the infrastructure. Fibre Channel is still the right choice for applications that require the highest levels of uptime, reliability, and performance. FCoE is a complementary technology that will continue to evolve as the technology matures. Note, I am not ruling out the general adoption of multi-hop FCoE. If you can make a race car out of a Prius…
Just for fun (meaning have a sense of humor), I put together a table to help navigate the decisions ranging from FCoE vs. Fibre Channel networks, Toyota Prius vs. BMW M3:
Purpose-built storage network
Hybrid power economical car
Purpose-built sports car
Fibre Channel and iSCSI
FCoE and iSCSI
Real cars, trucks, or SUVs
Minivans and hybrids
Ethernet tree huggers
Fibre Channel tree huggers
Upper middle-class hippies and environmentalists
Driving aficionados and enthusiasts
Technology best fit
Server I/O consolidation
Critical applications and storage
1 or 2nd generation
Converged network that minimizes switches, adapters, and cables
Dedicated network that maximizes uptime, reliability, and performance
Fuel economy, clean air, and carpool sticker
Performance, fun, and even more fun
Unproven beyond edge, layer 8 and 9 complexity, and technology maturity
It's not Ethernet and perceived cost
Subject to occasional road rage and or jokes at your expense
Can't buy groceries and must pay high insurance premiums