Brocade has announced a top-of-rack Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) switch, together with Converged Network Adapters for servers to use when connecting to the switch.
Brocade is the volume leader in shipping Fibre Channel Storage Area Network (SAN) switches and directors that link servers to SAN storage disk drive arrays across a Fibre Channel (FC) fabric. It has developed its product strategy to embrace SAN storage connectivity using Ethernet instead of Fibre Channel.
The first of the three steps needed is the provision of FCoE links between servers and an FCoE-capable Ethernet switch.
The second is the provision of a new Ethernet standard, Data Centre Ethernet (DCE), which is lossless and has low latency, meaning much faster and more reliable delivery of data packets.
Third is the provision of native FCoE interfaces on storage arrays. An interim step is needed by Fibre Channel director suppliers, which is to migrate the director to becoming an FCoE-capable product. Brocade is working on this with its DCX switch.
Brocade is announcing its first step today with its 8000 FCOE switch, 1010 and 1020 CNAs and a DCFM management product. Incidentally, Brocade prefers the term Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) instead of DCE, but for all practical purposes the acronyms are interchangeable.
Competitors Emulex and QLogic, working with Cisco on a DCE strategy, have already announced their own CNAs plus some unidentified OEM design wins from the tier 1 server vendors, understood to be Dell, HP and IBM, and, of course, Cisco.
New Brocade products
The 8000 has 24 10Gbit/E ports, CEE ports Brocade stresses, with eight 8Gbit/s FC ports and is designed to be installed in the top of a server rack. Servers link to it with a CNA, sending both Ethernet LAN, FCOe and even iSCSI data messages through the CNA to the 8000. It splits off the FCoE messages and sends them out through its FC ports to an FC switch or director and on to SAN storage. Ethernet LAN messages and iSCSI go out across the data centre's Ethernet network to their targets.
Brocade is anticipating an interim 40Gbit/s Ethernet standard before the coming 100Gbit/s Ethernet and says four of the Ethernet ports can be aggregated to provide a 40Gbit/s trunk.
The 1010 is a single 10Gbit/E port CNA with the 1020 being a dual-port version. Both use a single chip ASIC, broadly doing the same job as the single chip ASICs in the Emulex and QLogic CNAs. With the 1010 and 1020 there can be 64 individual data queues per port - great for virtualised servers - with a port sustaining around 500,000 IOPS.
Brocade says both its CNAs and the 8000 switch are very power-efficient.
The DCFM management software can manage both the FCoE and FC environments, which is useful for existing Brocade FC customers considering an FCoE move.
Power and equipment cost savings
The pitch here is that CNAs can be used to converge Ethernet NIC and FC HBA traffic onto a single adapter card, thus saving server interface card and cabling costs, power costs and management effort. Likewise the 8000 can be used to converge an Ethernet switch and 8-port FC edge switch into a single unit, again saving costs.
Marty Lans, Brocade's senior director for product marketing, thinks there's a 50 per cent cut in power usage to be had by converging NICs and HBAs onto CNAs, and Ethernet and FC edge switches onto an 8000 switch.
Brocade intends to develop the 8000 switch so that a version can be used as a blade in its DCX switch, eliminating the need for the 8000 switch in customer data centres with a DCX. The DCX would receive all Ethernet traffic from servers and split it into traffic for Fibre Channel targets and Ethernet ones. When storage arrays are delivered with native FCoE interfaces - and QLogic says it is working with tier 1 and 2 storage array vendors to have its CNA ASIC added to their controllers - then the Ethernet infrastructure would extend end-to-end from servers through switches to storage array and other targets.
Brocade's CNA technology will be developed, first into smaller mezzanine cards for blade servers and then into single chips that can fit on a server's motherboard. Brocade is talking to its server OEMs about this road map. QLogic has the same CNA-as-a-chip strategy for its CNA technology.
All of Brocade's switch and director OEMs are engaged in qualification work with the CNAs according to Lans: "All the OEMS for HBAs should take our CNA (following qualification)." There isn't a 100 per cent take-up yet but he's hopeful. He says that the Brocade switch uses the same ASIC as the CNAs and this enables Brocade to offer Quality of Service features and encryption from the switch down to a port.
It will be, The Register believes, realistic to expect all CNAs to be qualified by all FCoE-supporting server OEMs and by all FC switch/director vendors. The open FC and Ethernet standards have served the networking industry very well and any attempts to impose a proprietary link between switch and CNA will be, Henrik Hansen, QLogic's European Marketing Director, believes, rejected by customers. In support of this notion, Lans confirms that the Brocade CNAs will be qualified against Cisco's switches.
Lans reckons that customers will move slowly to FCoE, with 2009 and 2010 being used for "tyre-kicking" inspections, with actual real-world deployments starting in 2011. There is a need for suppliers like Brocade to develop detailed and realistic total cost of ownership (TCO) studies to explain to tyre-kicking customers the DCE/FCoE migration benefits. Pricing and availability for the new Brocade products were not revealed. ®