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Voltaire to branch into "FCoE-ready" 10 GbE switches

The more conversations I have about FCoE, the blurrier the distinctions get between its value prop and InfiniBand’s. The declaration today that InfiniBand switch maker Voltaire plans to get in to the Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) game with a new line of “FCoE-ready” Ethernet switches just reinforces that idea.

Voltaire VP of marketing Asaf Somekh said that the similarities are not coincidental. CEE, sometimes called Data Center Ethernet (DCE), is being worked on by “all the same people who defined the InfiniBand standard 10 years ago,” he said. “Some features have been borrowed and sometimes stolen from InfiniBand, which has been lossless since day one.” Both InfiniBand and FCoE are supposed to consolidate the ‘first hop’ networking infrastructure, carrying both Ethernet and FC packets over a converged pipe.

Somekh said Voltaire remains committed to InfiniBand, but “if Ethernet is going to add features that require InfiniBand expertise, why not leverage that opportunity?” The concept, software and chassis for the new 10 GbE switches will be based on the current InfiniBand models. The company has had parallel engineering teams working on InfiniBand and Ethernet for more than 18 months, according to Somekh.

Voltaire will focus on layer-2 data center switching rather than top-of-rack or edge switches with its switches when it ships them later this year. It plans to team up with server vendors to compete with Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). “A complete solution is a valid thing to do, but Voltaire switches are scalable to thousands of servers and compatible with any server OEM,” Somekh said

The product itself will run Ethernet and will be “FCoE ready,” but “the gateway functionality of FCoE, transmitting Fibre Channel traffic, happens at the top of the rack,” Somekh said. “FCoE is a nice architecture, and people are definitely interested, but it will be some time before it’s [built out].”

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