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Saturday, April 19th, 2014

SAN management

NetApp and Cisco roll out vSphere compatible FCoE solutions

Cisco Systems Inc. and NetApp Inc. -- vendors who have been at the forefront of pushing Fibre Channel over Ethernet storage (FCoE storage) -- have certified FCoE products to run with VMware vSphere.

On Wednesday, the vendors said VMware validated NetApp's FAS storage systems and the Cisco Nexus 5000 switches in virtual environments running VMware vSphere. NetApp storage and the Nexus 5000 support FCoE. The three vendors hope this first end-to-end FCoE storage network certified to run with virtual servers will spur FCoE adoption, which remains in the early stages while customers wait for the product ecosphere and standards to mature.

"From a technology standpoint, this is a good example or proof point that FCoE continues to evolve as well as mature, and opens the door for more tire kickers to give it a try in their environments," said Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group.

Wikibon analyst Stuart Miniman made a similar point on his blog Wednesday, while pointing out that NetApp won't be able to make its claim as the only end-to-end FCoE storage vendor for long.

"Bottom line, the ecosystem for Ethernet-based storage is continuing to grow," Miniman wrote. "The pieces are starting to fall into place for realistic end-to-end FCoE solutions to be deployed by late 2010 or 2011."

The early tire kickers include Databasement director Rob Christ, who uses NetApp systems for his firm's storage hosting business in the Netherlands. Databasement also serves as a consultant to help customers with on-site storage implementations, and Christ said he has built FCoE networks for a large school and a shipping manufacturer.

He said the school used NetApp NAS with another vendor's SAN before switching to FCoE. "We consolidated it over a unified FCoE platform on NetApp," he said.

Christ said these kinds of certifications will help drive FCoE implementations. "It's just like with Fibre Channel, you have a compatibility matrix," he said. "You need the right firmware and have to know what's supported and what's not supported. You have to know your boundaries. While it's still maturing, the FCoE boundaries are getting bigger now and it's getting ready for the enterprise. When we started, it was more restricted."

He said the need for compatibility testing is nothing new for Fibre Channel customers. "Fibre Channel incompatibility is a normal thing," Christ said. "On the IP side you don't have it much, but with FCoE you have interoperability hits, so you need to know what works with what."

More FCoE products coming

Cisco has supported FCoE on its Nexus 5000 switch since April 2008, and NetApp began offering native FCoE support through an FCoE target on its storage arrays later that year.

Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Emulex Corp. and QLogic Corp. are shipping converged network adapters (CNAs) that support FCoE, but adoption on storage systems has been limited because of lack of widespread FCoE support for SAN switches and standards that enable FCoE have not been ratified.

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