I'm beginning to understand the debate about the Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FcoE) concept and I don't like it. At first it made little sense to me. iSCSI delivered most of what we needed in terms of cheap SANs. It leveraged the IP infrastructure already in place in just about every organization in the world. iSCSI also made use of 40 years of experience, knowledge, and training. For high performance you went with Fiber Channel since iSCSI couldn't meet the very high loads of some systems. Otherwise, iSCSI was good enough for a lot of applications.
So why FCoE? The cost structure is likely to be higher than iSCSI or at best the same. The performance wouldn't be the same as pure FC. The idea that you need a gateway to the IP network doesn't really make sense to me either. Who really does that anyway? A few folks doing long distance SANs perhaps but there are tools for that and cost is not a big problem in those environments. You can always gateway to iSCSI if needed and the hardware for that already exists.
Then it occurred to me. It's marketing, stupid! When networking vendors such as Cisco go out and sell their SAN products, they are generally on the same footing as the FC players like Brocade. Brocade has more experience and knowledge about SANs which translates into an advantage for them. They also know the storage folks inside large companies that network vendors don't. Those storage guys like having their own flavor of network technology. It keeps the network admins out of their shorts.
Now, FCoE starts to make sense. You can sell IT on convergence or native integration or unified platforms or whatever marketing babble you choose. It is hoped that management will rally around the idea of having one networking platform even for two different types of network applications. Don't kid yourself, SANs and LANs are very different network applications with very different technology needs.
Best of all, as a networking vendor you have the upper hand in the sale. You can insert your champions (the core networking folks) into the process. You can sell expertise that the FC guy doesn't have. The worst case scenario has you on equal footing to the FC vendor where you can sell on the merits of the products. Of course, with 30 more years of experience in Ethernet, you will have a few tricks up your sleeve that the FC guy doesn't. Nice position to be in.
FCoE as a convergence/integration/unified platform play is rubbish. No one is going to run SAN traffic and LAN traffic over the same Ethernet network. It will still be two pools of equipment, much of it specialized to FCoE. Most of the real networking expertise in a company is in the IP space so no real advantage there. Once you start to install the specialized FCoE switches and NICs (or brand new unified platforms using a forklift I imagine) the costs won't be that much different.
iSCSI makes sense in so far as it provides a low cost SAN option for low to mid-performance SANs. Old fashioned FC makes sense because it provides a proven high performance storage networking capability for intense applications. FCoE does neither. All it does is give networking vendors a leg up against existing FC vendors.
Great marketing I must admit. Not convincing technology but a good way to position SANs as just another network flavor. If there is a technology advantage here it doesn't seem to create much of a business advantage for the IT folks.
I'm sure I'll get a bunch of hate mail telling me all the minor advantages of FCoE, many from corporate mouthpieces. Instead of wasting your time on that, tell me why someone will pay money for FCoE rather than iSCSI or FC. Tell me why we need to gateway SANs from FC to Ethernet which can't be routed and hence not good for wide area applications like remote backup.
Don't go down the road of the unified platforms either. Saying you need FCoE to create unified networks is not true and, at best, self serving. Unified platforms happen because of software not Ethernet.
Just don't say convergence, okay.