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    2013 in Review and the Outlook for 2014 – A SNIA ESF Perspective

    January 28th, 2014

    Technology continues to advance rapidly. Making sense of it all can be a challenge. At the SNIA Ethernet Storage Forum, we focus on storage technologies and solutions enabled by and associated with Ethernet Networks. Last year, we modified the charters of our two Special Interest Groups (SIG) to address topics about file protocols and storage over Ethernet. The File Protocols SIG includes the prior focus on Network File System (NFS) related topics and adds discussions around Server Message Block (SMB / CIFS). We had our first webcast last November on the topic of SMB 3.0 and it was our best attended webcast ever. The Storage over Ethernet SIG focuses on general Ethernet storage topics as well as more information about technologies like FCoE, iSCSI, Data Center Bridging, and virtual networking for storage. I encourage you to check out other articles on these hot topics in this SNIAESF blog to hear from our member experts as well as guest posts from leading analysts.

    2013 was a busy year and we are already kickin’ it in 2014. This should be an exciting year in IT. Data storage continues to be a hot sector especially in the areas of All-Flash and Hybrid arrays. This year, we will expect to see new standards coming out of the T11 committee for Fibre Channel and possibly FCoE as well as progress in high speed Ethernet networks. Lower cost network interconnects will facilitate adoption of high speed networks in the small to midsize business segment. And a new conversation around “Software Defined…” should push a lot of ink in trade rags and other news sources. Oh, and don’t forget about the “Internet of Things”, mobile solutions, and all things Cloud.

    The ESF will be addressing the impact on Ethernet storage solutions from these hot technologies. Next month, on February 18th, experts from the ESF, along with industry analysts from Dell’Oro Group will speak to the benefits and best practices of deploying FCoE and iSCSI storage protocols. This presentation “Use Cases for iSCSI and Fibre Channel: Where Each Makes Sense” will be part of an upcoming BrightTalk Summit on Storage Networking. I encourage you to register for this session. Additionally, we will be publishing a couple of white papers on file-based storage and a review of FCoE and iSCSI in storage applications.

    Finally, SNIA will be kicking off its first year of the new user conference, Data Storage Innovation Conference. This will be one of the few storage focused user conferences in the market and should be quite interesting.

    We’re excited about our growing membership and our plans for 2014. Our goal is to advance application of innovative technologies and we encourage you to send us mail or comment below with topics that are of interest to you.

    Here’s to an exciting 2014!


    Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE): Hype vs. Reality

    January 7th, 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 the Dell’Oro Group

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