Fibre Channel over Ethernet: Storage 101

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The protocol lets Fibre Channel (FC) and Ethernet/IP traffic share the same cables. Currently, there's no way to transport both kinds of traffic on one network without dropped packets. Other options include Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP), which uses switch-to-switch connections to transport data, and the Internet Fibre Channel Protocol (iFCP), which carries FC data over IP networks using SCSI protocols. But neither ensures performance.

FCoE, developed by Nuova Systems (owned by Cisco), will probably be ratified by the end of 2008, with early adoption possible this year or in early 2009. Cisco competitor Brocade says 2011 is a more realistic goal for mainstream use. Vendors have released FCoE-compatible switches and begun introducing converged network adapters (CNAs) that could replace a host bus adapter and an Ethernet NIC with a single card.

FCoE adoption is tied to 10Gb Ethernet, which will provide enough bandwidth to run FC and IP traffic at speeds comparable to current FC products. Data center Ethernet (DCE), or converged enhanced Ethernet (CEE), is emerging to provide fast Ethernet for data centers to converge protocols.

--Christine Cignoli

This was last published in November 2008

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