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NetApp first to offer native FCoE SAN storage

Fibre Channel over Ethernet pieces are starting to fall into place, but users aren't yet lining up to implement the emerging storage networking technology gear.

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS -- NetApp today became the first vendor to pledge native support for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) in a storage array.

Joel Reich, vice president of NetApp's SANiSAN unit, said at Storage Networking World that NetApp FAS and V series storage systems will support Cisco's Nexus 5020 FCoE switch, as well as Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) from QLogic and Emulex.

On Monday, EMC said it would resell the Cisco switch and the QLogic and Emulex CNAs. But NetApp is going one step farther with FCoE cards in its arrays. Reich said that the native FCoE will be available by year-end. "If you have a NetApp system, FCoE will work with an FCoE target card," he said. Reich expects the FCoE card to cost roughly the same as an 8 Gbps FC card.

More on FCoE
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Storage vendors propose FC over Ethernet standard

Storage vendors are in two camps regarding FCoE. Cisco is the loudest of a small group that claim the technology is ready to go, even though standards for FCoE and the Data Center Ethernet it is built on aren't yet finalized. Cisco claims to have 100 customers for its FCoE Nexus 5000 switch. Jackie Ross, marketing vice president of Cisco's Server Access and Virtualization unit, said she expects production deployments in the first quarter of 2009.

Cisco's FC switch rival Brocade says that deployment of FCoE technology is much further off because of cost, lack of standards and little customer interest. Brocade has not yet released its FCoE switch or CNAs.

Other storage system vendors apparently agree with Brocade, although they are preparing their support for FCoE. IBM chief technical strategist Clod Barrera said that FCoE will have a "significant impact in the longer run," but right now IBM customers are showing only a "tiny bit" of interest." Most customers, he said, "aren't really on this page yet."

Praveen Asthana, director of enterprise storage for Dell, which sells iSCSI systems and partners with EMC on FC systems, said that Dell will support FCoE. "But it's hard to find customers really clamoring for it," he said.

During an SNW presentation, NetApp user Steve Remsing, senior systems administrator for Dow Chemical, said, "We're keeping an eye on the FCoE space, but it's not quite there yet."

According to Rob Stevenson, managing director of storage research for TheInfoPro, his company's latest market research shows a strong interest in FCoE among enterprise storage executives, but they're looking at it for 2010.

NetApp's Reich said one of the key drivers will be support for all the operating system vendors. "The most activity around FCoE will be as a proof of concept until March," he said. "You'll see some leading-edge adopters, but in the second half of next year we'll start seeing customer deployments."

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