Brocade switch joins emerging storage, network standards

Brocade has unveiled a switch and network adapters that join Fiber Channel over Ethernet and Convergence Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) into one platform, but the company does not expect mass adoption of these emerging technology standards until 2011.

Moving to a Fiber Channel over Ethernet infrastructure will require a version of 10 Gigabit Ethernet that is lossless, and CEE is a proposed standard for deploying that, IDC analyst Richard Villars explains.

While FCoE and CEE aren’t standard in data centers today, companies such as Brocade, QLogic, Emulex and Cisco are preparing products so they will be ready if and when these technologies attract attention from enterprise IT buyers.

Brocade, which acquired Foundry Networks last year, has announced the 8000 Switch, a top-of-rack FCoE device with 24 ports for 10GbE CEE and eight ports for Fibre Channel at 8Gbps speed. Brocade also unveiled single and dual-port Converged Network Adapters. These “provide classic Ethernet and storage transport functionality over a single link and deliver 10Gbps FCoE connectivity from servers to SAN fabrics and to the local area network,” Brocade said.

Within a rack, the new switch will connect to servers equipped with the Brocade 1010 (single-port) and 1020 (dual-port) adapters. Brocade says its new products offer more bandwidth and consume less power in a smaller form factor than competing products.

In a similar announcement, Emulex recently announced a converged network adapter that is optimized for virtualized and blade infrastructures, while supporting numerous IP and storage networking protocols within a single chip.

Enterprises will probably start testing out Fiber Channel over Ethernet products this year, followed by limited deployment in 2010 and mass adoption in 2011 or later, according to Marty Lans, Brocade’s senior director of product marketing.

Brocade’s new products will become generally available through OEM vendors over the next couple of months, Lans says.

Villars agrees with Brocade’s assessment that FCoE won’t become a big deal in the enterprise until 2011. But those overseeing data centers using Fiber Channel over 4- or 8 Gigabit Ethernet will be intrigued by the new technology, he says.

Most iSCSI users seem not to be interested in Fiber Channel over Ethernet, because they want to avoid the complicated physical connections and management schemes related to Fiber Channel, Villars says.

For customers running blades and virtualized servers, the move to FCoE will significantly reduce cabling needs, according to Villars. But in order to gain mass adoption, server and storage vendors will likely have to tweak their own products to support the new protocols.

“This is an ecosystem. It can’t just be one or two companies,” Villars says. “Over the long run, companies would like this to be a converged network from end to end.”

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