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How your SAN will evolve

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But Cox warns that "there are a number of issues that will keep convergence from happening." The biggest ones are organizational. "You have issues between networking and storage people that aren't easy to resolve," he says.

On the technical side, FC over Ethernet (FCoE), for example, isn't a slam dunk. For 10Gb Ethernet to provide the basis of FCoE, "you need a special form of 10Gb Ethernet," says Cox. Called enhanced Ethernet, it will address such things as flow control, which is necessary to deliver the lossless networking that makes FC storage so popular. "The standards aren't yet in place," says Cox, who doubts they'll be ready for widespread deployment in five years, noting that "FCoE will achieve about 2% market penetration by 2012."

As for InfiniBand, forget it. "Maybe we'll see InfiniBand as an alternative for the converged network," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst at StorageIO Group, Stillwater, MN, and author of The Green and Virtual Data Center (Auerbach).


Switches
Switches will be more flexible and intelligent. "By then, plumbing will be less important than intelligence," says Jon Toigo, CEO at Toigo Partners International, Dunedin, FL.

Cisco expects switches to be capable of providing networking services, such as firewalls, load balancing and other QoS functionality. The switch will also play a central role in network management

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automation. "To get [end-to-end] automation, you'll need intelligence at multiple places: in the converged network, adapters, HBAs, array controllers," says Ross (see "Where to put storage intelligence," PDF below).

Click here for
Where to put storage intelligence (PDF).

No protocols will go away anytime soon. Instead, switches will handle multiple protocols, including FC, FCoE, Ethernet, enhanced or converged Ethernet, iSCSI and possibly InfiniBand. By 2013, multiprotocol SAN switches should be commonplace, although the particular combination of protocols may vary. Switches will also be bigger, encompassing hundreds of ports and enabling thousands of ports on the network. Intelligence will reside in the core switches, and edge switches will connect to the core.

This was first published in December 2008

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