Cinetica_4>How many times have you heard this statement? Tape is dead! Mainframe is dead! So on and so forth… it turned out not to be true, most of the times it was just a way to say that a newer technology was seeing a strong adoption, so strong as to eclipse the older one in the eyes of the masses. But, in the case of FCoE, it is slightly different.

No one wanted it!

Well, no one except CISCO.

FCoE is a standard to encapsulate FC frames into Ethernet networks. A lossless protocol encapsulated in a best-effort network. Why? Technically speaking it makes no sense!

But FCoE has nothing to do with technical reasons. At that time the FC market was in Brocade’s hands while iSCSI was not considered enterprise-grade. Cisco was not as good as Brocade on FC but it has a lot of knowledge in Ethernet and IP. So it pushed very hard, at every level, and promoted FCoE.

A protocol that has a lot of implications but, above all, specialized adapters (CNAs) and specialized high-end Ethernet switches. Long story short, it could have meant a lot of revenues and control all over the datacenter networks! But it didn’t work as expected.

Very few adopted it!

The list of problems in adopting FCoE was very long:
– It’s complicated
– It mixes FC and Ethernet knowledge and teams (storage and networking people don’t mingle!)
– High investment with unclear ROIs
– The standard was not all that standard after all, with different vendors competing to get their specifications ratified.
– Most installations ended up with TOR switches (and FC from there!)
– FCoE doesn’t have flexibility of iSCSI (or NFS)
– Storage vendor (and customers) not really interested in adding another storage protocol to support.
– …

In the meantime iSCSI inherited most of the good stuff from FCoE (like DCB for example) and it has slowly become much more appreciated by end users and vendors.

The standardization process of FCoE started in 2007. Now, after 8 years, most of the vendors support only iSCSI and/or FC whilw FCoE is no longer to be seen in any future roadmap!

It has been of help!

Internet Service CompetitionThanks to FCoE, Ethernet storage has grown tremendously. A few years back, it was considered only for secondary needs. Mostly because it was associated with mid-range or low end iSCSI storage and often poorly implemented on the networking side.

Now, it is considered as first citizen and some vendors (like SolidFire for example) leverage it to build huge infrastructures. Nonetheless, all VSAs and hyperconverged products are all based on Ethernet communication protocols!

Closing the circle

Would you buy FCoE today? Cisco partners don’t even use it: EMC maybe, but most NetApp FlexPod installations I’ve spotted in the field primarily use NFS, and others like Pure or Nimble don’t support it at all!

FCoE failed miserably… and CISCO lost a chance to control the whole datacenter (it can’t always be a success!).
From this point of view, today, CISCO is the market leader for datacenter blades and networking. But they have a very poor standing where storage is concerned! Despite the fact that they aren’t doing that bad with FC switches and directors.

It’s time for them to look around, forget FCoE (and other false steps made with Invicta ?!), and start building a serious storage portfolio… especially now that they are no longer tied to EMC.