Storage/servers/generic IT

Brocade Converges

3:15 PM -- MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- I'm at the Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) Technology Day, being held at the Computer History Museum. CTO Dave Stevens is talking about why data center convergence will probably be slow to take hold.

It's the same story we've heard for years with Sonet/SDH networks: The old infrastructure is going to take a long time to go away. That means planning for long-term support for plain Ethernet and plain Fibre Channel while still championing protocols that combine them on one pipe -- namely, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) or Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE).

The problem is that most customers don't want to do that yet, Stevens says. CEE is being deployed "in the first five feet of the network," between the server and the first switch encountered; from that point, traffic is split into IP or Fibre Channel, per customers' requests.

So while Brocade plans to keep preaching convergence, it's planning to ship FCoE and CEE at a rate that matches customers' "ability to consume it and actually use it effectively in their data centers," Stevens says.

That's a bit of a contrast with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which talks about a unified fabric and an all-in-one data center platform that includes the company's own servers. (See Cisco's Nexus Targets Data Center's Future and Cisco Dreams of Data Center Unity.) Cisco probably would agree that the transition will be slow, but it's putting more emphasis on the endgame than Brocade is.

Still, the transition is starting. Its DCX storage-networking switch is going to get FCoE and CEE blades in 2010 -- which means it's also going to have to get the ability to translate back to Fibre Channel or Ethernet. "So, we'll add Ethernet capabilities and CEE capabilities, effectively, into the DCX platform," Stevens says.

The MLX routers -- former Foundry Networks products -- will likewise get CEE blades in 2010, but they won't need any Fibre Channel, because there's no storage infrastructure on the other end; they connect into the IP-based wide-area network.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

omarsultan 12/5/2012 | 4:03:34 PM
re: Brocade Converges


So, I would agree that we see the customer journey towards a unified data center fabric progressing at a measured pace.  We see the rate of progress really being driven by a couple of things: customers desire (or need) to reduce data center TCO by simplifying server infrastructure and by the goal of maximizing investment protection for their existing data center assets.

Right now, the compelling appeal for FCoE is to simplify server side infrastructure (less interfaces, less cables, fewer upstream switch ports, lower power and cooling, etc).  As customers further invest in server virtualization, we find that FCoE's ability to enhance the functionality of vm migration becomes a secondary benefit.  I believe the rate of further penetration of unified fabric into the data center will really vary by customer and their own circumstance--some will move faster than others because the it suits their needs.  In any case, I think the end-state will continue to be an inclusive one with both FCoE and FC components for some time to come.  I posted a quick video on our view of the customer journey a little while back: http://tr.im/nddK

Finally, with a solution that has been shipping for a year or so, our customers have had the opportunity to bring the solution in-house and play with it in their own environment.  They can get hard data on how it works and where it adds value and plan accordingly.

Omar Sultan

Cisco Systems


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