EMC expands Ethernet portfolio in convergence push

The storage company will launch its own products, as well as those from Cisco and Brocade, to try to improve its virtualised datacentre and private cloud offering
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

Storage company EMC is to offer companies the ability to manage their local area and storage area networks as one single converged network, through an expanded Ethernet portfolio based on EMC and other firms' products.

The Ethernet move was announced on Monday at EMC World 2010 in Boston. EMC's own offerings will include converged network planning, design and implementation services and tools, while partnerships with Cisco and Brocade will see EMC reselling those companies' switches.

EMC's president for information infrastructure and cloud services Howard Elias said in a statement that many businesses were migrating towards a 'private cloud' architecture. This involved the virtualisation of servers, networks and storage, he said.

"The advent of converged networks will simplify network challenges and create the datacentre infrastructure required to realise the full potential of private clouds," Elias said in a statement.

EMC's new products will be based on Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), iSCSI and Network Attached Storage.

FCoE allows fibre channel — a commonly-used storage protocol — to be preserved over Ethernet networks, on which virtually all local area networks are run. This makes it simpler for IT departments to run combined local area and storage area networks.

CEE offers several improvements to the Ethernet protocol, such as traffic prioritisation and the improved selection of data packet routing. CEE also reduces the risk of congestion and therefore packet loss by letting a receiving node in the network ask the sending node to reduce the number of packets it is sending.

The combination of FCoE and CEE enables server I/O consolidation, meaning a single server adaptor — called a converged network adaptor (CNA) — can use the same physical infrastructure to carry different types of traffic. The result is that the CNA replaces both a network interface card and a host bus adapter, reducing capital costs for the business concerned.

EMC says FCoE and CEE will reduce power consumption and increase simplicity, particularly for larger datacentres.

The partnership with Cisco will lead to a datacentre system based on the networking giant's Nexus 10 gigabit ethernet (GbE) switches, EMC said.

EMC and Cisco have been working closely together since November 2009 when they announced a collaboration, also involving VMware, to try to sell virtualised datacentre hardware and software. Now called the Virtual Computing Environment, the approach is to be headed up by former Compaq chief Michael Capellas, the companies announced last week.

The Brocade tie-up will see EMC reselling Brocade's FCX Series 1GbE datacentre switches, TurboIron 24X high-performance computing switch, NetIron MLX routers, NetIron CES 200 series switches and ServerIron ADX Application Delivery Controllers. Businesses will get support directly from Brocade. The Brocade and Cisco products will be available through EMC from the third quarter of 2010.

"This new agreement... allows our joint customers to reap the benefits of our combined experience and expertise in Ethernet, storage and converged networking technologies," said Ken Cheng, Brocade's vice president of infrastructure products, in a statement.

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