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A 10GbE infrastructure provides some distinctive benefits over FC. For instance, companies may no longer need to use both FC HBA and Ethernet NICs for storage and network connectivity; they can use 10GbE NICs for their storage and networking needs.

"FCoE is an evolutionary protocol helping to establish a shared Ethernet fabric for storage networks that can be interconnected with the FCIP protocol," says DeSanti.

Companies looking to transition to FCIP and FCoE will need to upgrade or replace existing Ethernet switches and NICs. Mike Krause, fellow engineer at Hewlett-Packard, says Ethernet switches and NICs will need to support 10Gb while Ethernet switches will need to understand how FC frames are transmitted over the network so they can create zones and do storage provisioning.

Krause expects companies will initially designate each 10Gb NIC card in servers for a single use--one card for data and the other for storage--and run FCIP and FCoE over the 10Gb NICs dedicated to storage. Companies would use FCoE for local storage traffic because it doesn't create TCP/IP overhead, while FCIP is a better fit for companies that need to route and encrypt data over the wire. "The best place to do encryption is with FCIP because it can use IPsec," says Krause.

Because data and storage networking are handled by different groups in an organization, new protocols like FCIP and FCoE (that can

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run over the same Ethernet) will need to bring these two groups together. "During the convergence of IP networks and storage networks," says Krause, "there will be challenges with management tools and combined departments."

--Jerome M. Wendt and Joshua Konkle

This was first published in November 2007

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