Fibre Channel over Ethernet â€“ A Practical Alternative
Based on comprehensive testing performed by Cisco and NetApp, this white paper explores
whether Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) is a viable and practical alternative to current Storage
Area Networking (SAN) solutions such as Fibre Channel (FC) and Internet Small Computer System
Interface (iSCSI). The testing clearly demonstrated that FCoE has numerous advantages, in that it
allows Local Area network (LAN) and SAN communications to share a common infrastructure,
eliminating the need for independent cabling and parallel networks, while preserving the tried and
tested SAN provisioning and management methodologies used by storage administrators today.
The testing also showed that FCoE performed at least as well as FC and consumed less server
resources than either iSCSI or NFS (the current alternative solution for consolidating LAN and SAN
traffic). Because of the potential capital and operational cost savings associated with a unified
networking solution for SAN and LAN communications and the relative ease of migration to FCoE,
we would recommend that data center designers and operations teams consider the use of FCoE,
in conjunction with 10 Gigabit Ethernet, for their future Storage Area Networking requirements.
Please note that any performance figures quoted in this document are for implementation
comparison purposes only, (based on the single host test environment used) and not a measure of
the maximum performance and throughput possible in a larger scale implementation.
What You Will Learn
Many organizations are carefully watching developments of FCoE, a new storage networking
technology recently standardized by the International Committee for Information Technology
Standards (INCITS) T.11 in the FC-BB-5 specification. Data center managers and designers are
extremely interested in the technology, as it offers the potential for consolidating both LAN and
SAN traffic onto a single, unified network (or fabric, to use SAN terminology). This development
could drastically reduce the capital outlay associated with building data center network
infrastructure, and could deliver tangible operational expenditure savings associated with running
and operating data center connectivity.
To determine whether FCoE is a viable technology, the operational characteristics also need to be
considered. FCoE needs to perform as well as FC, and it needs to be able to be managed in the
same way. Additionally, performance metrics must be as good, or better, than those of FC.
The Cisco Enhanced Customer Aligned Testing Services (ECATS) team, in conjunction with
NetApp, has recently undertaken a series of tests and assessments designed to determine whether
FCoE, as it exists today, provides a practical and realistic alternative to current storage networking
technologies such as FC and iSCSI, in terms of deployment, high availability, operating
procedures, performance and diagnostics.
This white paper provides an overview of these tests, and presents the conclusions derived.