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FCoE: From fee to free

Jim Duffy | Feb. 8, 2011
With demand for FCoE more sluggish than vendors had hoped, 10 Gigabit Ethernet switch and adapter makers are making it available for free.

The slightly higher differential in price for 10G over FCoE in 2015 – and in years 2011 to 2014 – is due to the higher concentration of fiber ports for non-FCoE 10G. As a server access convergence technology, FCoE will have more copper deployments, Dell’Oro’s Weckel says.

Infonetics Research also forecasts FCoE switches to be a $2 billion market in 2014 from a barely detectable market in 2009, and that FCoE will eventually overtake Fibre Channel. But it will take eight to 10 years for this to occur due to challenges cracking Fibre Channel’s solid installed base.

The ASP of FCoE adapters, meanwhile, will drop from $308 in 2010 to $138 in 2015. Intel recently announced that it will bundle FCoE on its X520 10G adapters at no additional cost.

Brocade, the market leader in Fibre Channel SANs, says it’s been doing that on its converged network adapters (CNA) for nine months now. Brocade also offers FCoE on its 8000 series switches for no added fee. On its VDX 6720 switch, Brocade says FCoE costs extra, but would not say what the price is.

“We’re seeing demand increase but we’re not seeing the same uptick as Dell’Oro is seeing,” says Doug Ingraham, vice president of data center products at Brocade. “We’re seeing the downward side of the hype curve with FCoE. We’re starting to see customer skepticism come in.”

Ingraham says FCoE still needs “hardening and maturing” before it can be deployed for mission-critical data center applications. He says there are still a lot of questions that have to be addressed with the technology, such as management, diagnosis and troubleshooting of FCoE implementations; and when best to deploy it to converge data and storage, vs. keeping data and storage separate.

“It comes down to best practices,” Ingraham says. “(Customers) still may separate storage and data networks for management. There are some cases where convergence makes sense and some where separation makes sense.”

Cisco says FCoE makes sense at the server network access point because 80% of the consolidation cost savings of a unified fabric – less adapters and cabling -- occur there.  Cisco’s recently announced Nexus 5500 switch is designed to allow any port to be configured as 10G Ethernet, supporting FCoE, iSCSI and NAS, or native Fibre Channel.  

“We believe the 10-Gigabit Ethernet transport is the underlying key to providing the flexibility which allows IT organizations to wire once, and then mount any type of storage to their computing infrastructure,” Cisco’s Ross says. “More customers are moving to a unified fabric approach because it delivers greater data center efficiency, simplifies management and can accelerate the deployment of virtualization and cloud-based services.”


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