FCoE for converged networking? Not quite, Brocade veep says

Brocade, a storage veteran and data center LAN innovator, has the tools to make end-to-end FCoE work, but that's not what customers want, one VP says.

In part one of this interview with Jason Nolet, Brocade's vice president of data center networking, we explored how the Brocade VCS Fabric technology introduces network automation into the data center LAN. In this follow-up, Nolan addresses the future of Fibre Channel over Ethernet for converged networking.

Just 18 months ago, the networking industry was abuzz about the future of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) for converged storage networking. That's not the case anymore.

This month, Brocade won the SearchNetworking Network Innovation Award for its VCS network fabric. At one time, network fabric was considered key to converged storage networking. And if anyone could have pulled off FCoE, it would have been Brocade, a storage veteran that acquired Foundry for networking technology, and then became innovative in the data center LAN.

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But in the course of a conversation about the VCS fabric, we asked Jason Nolet, Brocade's VP of data center networking, where Brocade and others stand on the future of FCoE. In sum, FCoE won't be the end-to-end solution many had expected, he said. Here's more of what Nolet had to say.

We used to talk about using fabric for converged storage networking, and specifically FCoE, but that's not the case so much anymore. Why?

Jason Nolet: I think [users] have decided that end-to-end convergence of storage and non-storage networks, especially as it relates to FCoEFCoE, is not something they're interested in pursuing. There are two reasons for that. One is they can't replicate the reliability and the deterministic performance with FCoE that they've come to realize with Fibre Channel. The second is that organizationally it's challenging for companies that are invested in Fibre Channel to put their storage and non-storage teams into the same physical venue. [It's difficult to say], 'OK there's a storage failure or a networking failure, you guys go figure it out.'"

There is some [modest] adoption in convergence and FCoE from the server to the first hop in the network. That is gaining some momentum because it's an opportunity for customers to reduce the adapters in the server and simplify cabling. VCS is capable of supporting that convergence to the switch, at which point we're capable of breaking out native Fibre Channel traffic on the SAN [storage area network] and non-storage traffic on the Ethernet LAN.

More important from a convergence point of view is the growth of IP storage and our ability to leverage VCS to make NAS [network attached storage] or iSCSI work better. VCS provides a lower-latency and higher-throughput environment than a conventional LAN, so it's a better IP storage transport. Also, VCS has a scaling property that aligns with the way customers think about scaling up their NAS environments. They want to be able to add pods of storage and have that federate into the existing IP storage architecture. That's the way you scale a VCS fabric.

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