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Cisco: We’re not abandoning Fibre Channel for FCoE

Despite its aggressive push of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), Cisco executives say Fibre Channel will remain its main storage protocol for another five to 10 years and the vendor remains committed to extending its MDS FC switching platform.

Cisco reps claimed it is a myth that the vendor is abandoning FC for FCoE today during a webcast on storage networking innovation.

“Cisco is not going out and saying ‘Get rid of the Fibre Channel infrastructure,’” said Ed Chapman, VP of product management for Cisco’s server access and virtualization group.

Added VP of Cisco’s data center switching technology group Rajiv Ramaswami: “Fibre Channel is here, it’s healthy, it’s going to be here for a long time.” When asked how long before FCoE becomes the primary storage protocol, he said at least five to 10 years.

Ramaswami says Cisco plans call for an 8Gbps Fibre Channel module for the Nexus 5000 switch this year and a 16Gbps FC card for its MDS 9000 director switches by early 2011. He said Cisco will also add new intelligent storage services for the MDS platform, as well as an FCoE module.

He said FC will play a major part alongside FCoE in Cisco’s unified platform. “Unified computing is not just another name for FCoE,” he said. “FCoE is a building block in a unified fabric. FCoE is about consolidation of I/O on the server. A unified platform is about building an end to end network along with unified storage.”

Cisco added to its FCoE platform today with the Nexus 4000, the first blade switch for its Nexus unified fabric platform. Cisco expects OEM deals with blade server vendors to ship the Nexus 4000 inside their blades.

Cisco, which has deeper roots in Ethernet than FC, has pushed FCoE more than its chief switching rival Brocade, which began as a FC vendor and added Ethernet when it acquired Foundry Networks last year. Brocade beat Cisco to the punch with 4Gbps FC and 8 Gbps and gained FC market share during the refresh cycles. So it will be interesting to see if Cisco makes good on its FC roadmap pledges, especially for 16-gig.

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