As Marc Farley pointed out in his recent post (FCoE: Run Away, Its the Monster), new storage protocols are not new. Although FCoE was announced with great fanfare, the first draft of the specification is not expected to be ready until the second half of this year. The only real information that has been published are proposals made to the T11 committee; Convergence of FC and Ethernet: Host-side view, FCoE: Enabling Fibre Channel over Lossless Ethernet Fabrics, Call for participation on FC over ConvergedEnhancedEthernet
I like FCoE because the new name has two brand name technologies in its title- Fibre Channel and Ethernet :-)
Seriously, for any new protocol to survive in the mature (maturing?) storage environment, solutions featuring the new protocol must provide three things to its constituent consumers- 1) a feature advantage, 2) a cost advantage over the technology it is replacing and 3) it must integrate well with the existing infrastructure. I’ll address each one of these points individually.
A solution based on a new protocol must provide a feature advantage. A feature advantage is more than an incremental improvement, a feature advantage is not Fibre Channel moving from 4G to 8G. It must provide something that process technology along cannot provide. A feature advantage is an enabling feature- less complexity is a feature advantage. Ease of use is a feature advantage.
A solution based on a new protocol must provide a cost advantage over the technology that it is replacing. Cost is the total system cost, this includes management software, HBAs, switches, infrastructure and the trained team that implements and manages the solution everyday. Reusing existing infrastructure helps lower the the solution cost. A forklift upgrade does not.
A solution based on a new protocol must integrate easily with existing infrastructure. Greenfield deployments are rare. Most installations of a new technology will have to integrate with existing storage and storage management systems. You can’t force data to be migrated enmass to the new solution. A solution based on a new protocol must provide access to the legacy storage while providing the feature and cost benefits of new storage. A great storage solution will also extent those features and cost benefits to legacy storage.
FCoE, if done correctly, has a chance to meet the above criteria. If it does, it may not be just yet another storage protocol, it may be part of a real storage solution. I’ll address how I think FCoE can accomplish this in future posts.