January 30, 2014

It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for FCoE, which started out with more promise than it was able to deliver. In theory, the benefits of a single converged LAN/SAN network are fairly easy to see. The problem was, as is often the case with new technology, that most of the theoretical benefit was not available on the initial product release. The idea that storage traffic was no longer confined to expensive SANs, but instead could run on the more commoditized and easier-to-administer IP equipment was intriguing, however, new 10 Gbps Enhanced Ethernet switches were not exactly inexpensive with few products supporting FCoE initially, and those that did, did not play nicely with products from other vendors.

Keeping FCoE “On the Single-Hop”?

The adoption of FCoE to date has been almost exclusively “single-hop”, meaning that FCoE is being deployed to provide connectivity between the server and the Top of Rack switch. Consequently, traffic continues to be broken out one way for IP, and another way for FC. Breaking out the traffic makes sense—by consolidating network adapters and cables, it adds value on the server access side.

A significant portion of FCoE switch ports come from Cisco’s UCS platform, which runs FCoE inside the chassis. In terms of a complete end-to-end FCoE solution, there continues to be very little multi-hop FCoE happening, or ports shipping on storage arrays.

In addition, FCoE connections are more prevalent on blade servers than on stand-alone servers for various reasons.

  • First, blades are used more in a virtualized environment where different types of traffic can travel on the same link.
  • Second, the migration to 10 Gbps has been very slow so far on stand-alone servers; about 80% of these servers are actually still connected with 1 Gbps, which cannot support FCoE.

What portion of FCoE-enabled server ports are actually running storage traffic?

FCoE-enabled ports comprise about a third of total 10 Gbps controller and adapter ports shipped on servers. However, we would like to bring to readers’ attention the wide difference between the portion of 10 Gbps ports that is FCoE-enabled and the portion that is actually running storage traffic. We currently believe less than a third of the FCoE-enabled ports are being used to carry storage traffic. That’s because the FCoE port, in many cases, is provided by default with the server. That’s the case with HP blade servers as well as Cisco’s UCS servers, which together are responsible for around 80% of the FCoE-enabled ports. We believe, however, that in the event that users buy separate adapters they will most likely use that adapter to run storage traffic—but they will need to pay an additional premium for this – about 50% to 100% – for the FCoE license.

The Outlook

That said, whether FCoE-enabled ports are used to carry storage traffic or not, we believe they are being introduced at the expense of some FC adapters. If users deploy a server with an FCoE-enabled port, they most likely will not buy a FC adapter to carry storage traffic. Additionally, as Ethernet speeds reach 40 Gbps, the differential over FC will be too great and FC will be less likely to keep pace.

About the Authors

Casey Quillin is a Senior Analyst, Storage Area Network & Data Center Appliance Market Research with Dell’Oro Group.

Sameh Boujelbene is a Senior Analyst, Server and Controller & Adapter Market Research with Dell’Oro Group.


This post originally appeared on the SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum Blog.

Sameh Boujelbene

Posted by Sameh Boujelbene on January 30, 2014

About Sameh

Sameh Boujelbene is responsible for Dell’Oro Group’s Controller & Adapter program. Prior to joining Dell’Oro Group, Sameh worked on broadband access & IP connectivity solutions for mobile and fixed operators at Nokia Siemens Networks in Tunisia.