Most people have heard about recent Microsoft’s recent $26.2B acquisition of LinkedIn. You may also be aware of VMware’s purchase of Arkin and Symantec’s of Blue Coat, which they announced on June 13. My colleague Edward Haletky discusses these acquisitions here. CenturyLink announced its purchase of ElasticBox on June 14. June 16 brought further announcements of acquisitions, these being Samsung’s purchase of Joyent and Cavium’s acquisition of QLogic.
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FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) is a relatively new industry effort designed to combine the lossless features of FC with the ubiquity of Ethernet. FCoE is essentially Fibre Channel (FC) frames encapsulated in Ethernet packets using Ethernet links instead of Fibre Channel links. Nonetheless, at the upper layers it is still Fibre Channel which allows for the preservation of existing FC infrastructures – a major design goal. FCoE allows storage and network traffic to be converged onto one set of cables, switches and adapters thereby reducing cables, energy consumption and heat generation. Storage management using an FCoE interface has the same look and feel as storage management with traditional FC interfaces. Nonetheless, FCoE is Layer 2 only and this fact greatly impacts its capabilities. This industry standards effort depends on the coordinated work of three standards bodies:
- IEEE for Ethernet extensions
- INCITS/ANSI T11committee for the Fibre Channel protocols
- IETF for routing
The Good News
It started with virtual memory, then virtual machines (CPUs), then virtual storage, and now I/O virtualization (IOV) – where the I/O path from the server to the peripheral is itself virtualized. Traditionally, I/O devices connect to the server with some sort Interface or adapter, e.g., NIC – Network Interface Card, HBA – Host Bus adapter, etc., which are located inside the physical server.
I/O virtualization moves the adapters out of the server and into to a switching box. This allows the adapters to be shared across many physical servers, which drives up adapter utilization – often less than 10%-15% in a non-virtualized world. Fewer adapters means less power and cooling. Also, adapters take up a lot of space in servers and moving them out of the server allows 1U servers to be used instead of 2U ones.
After ratification of the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) standard this past June, this new storage networking technology is on a fast track for adoption. The standard has gone from proposal to approval in approximately two years, way quicker than average. Now, NetApp is the first vendor to be shipping native FCoE storage systems.