The world tends to see Ethernet as the way forward for pretty much every type of connectivity requirement. But is it – especially in the context of storage?
This is the debate that once -- but not perhaps so much now -- raged around the idea of Fibre Channel over Ethernet: running FC protocols over the same Ethernet cable as network data. The industry does appear to have accepted that FCoE is the way forward but, for some in the industry, the idea still doesn't make sense.
I'm probably not enough of an expert to call it either way but, during my couple of days at Storage Network World in Frankfurt this week, I've heard some compelling arguments for each position.
Those in favour of the idea of Ethernet everywhere play the familiarity card, citing the success of the technology not just in networking but also in wireless, the wide area network and other places. They also say -- and this is a powerful argument since half the data-carrying cables connect to storage -- that customers are are calling for simplification of the cable plant in their datacentres, which means reducing the number of cables emanating from each rack.
On the other side is the idea that FCoE is essentially SCSI, and that the alterations that Ethernet needs to undergo in order to persuade it to conform to the needs of storage means that, although the cable might be Cat6, what's traversing it isn't Ethernet. And that anyway, it doesn't matter whether it's Ethernet or not in this context.
Behind the naysayers' words is also a belief that one large -- make that very large -- networking vendor dreamed up the idea of FCoE in order to create a bottleneck in the standards committees because its own technology simply wasn't ready at the point that storage vendors were ready to move FC forward.
Far be for me to accuse Cisco (oops) of sandbagging: I'm sure the company is far too honourable to play so underhand a trick. But could it be that this is actually what happened? Is FCoE really the answer to the need for a single cable? And does it matter now anyway?
What do you think?