How are FCoE switches used in the data center?

Most users currently run Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) only between their servers and top-of-rack switches or with blade servers and their embedded switches. Do you think end users will ultimately run FCoE from their servers to their storage arrays, or will they simply run FCoE from their servers to switches?

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Users will ultimately run Fibre Channel over Ethernet directly to their storage systems. FCoE is increasingly becoming an adapter option on new storage arrays. As the technology matures, storage systems go through a tech refresh or new systems are added, expect to see core Data Center Bridging Capability Exchange Protocol switches (DCBx switches) begin to supplant top-of-rack switches/gateways.

The degree to which users can run FCoE switches in the network core depends on the core switch. The core switch has to support DCBx, which means it must act as a layer-2 network, similar to an FC switch. If the switch is DCBx rated, that network core can be used in the same manner as an FC director or switch.

The number of arrays providing a native FCoE adapter today is relatively small and growing slowly. There are native FCoE storage adapters available for EMC Corp.'s VNX (EMC VMAX support is coming); NetApp Inc.'s FAS series, V-Series and some E-Series; Hitachi Data Systems' Virtual Storage Platform (VSP); and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s XP95000, a rebranding of Hitachi's VSP. Expect more systems to offer FCoE as a native option this year and next.

This was first published in October 2012

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