Protocol Wars: Can Fibre Channel Survive Ethernet's Assault?

Although Fibre Channel is seeing single-digit growth rates, Ethernet for storage is exploding

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The company uses CNAs on its blade servers, which allow it to run both typical LAN data traffic over Ethernet and storage traffic using FCoE. But the company has yet to run the FCoE all the way to its back-end storage.

The Fibre Channel storage arrays are connected to Cisco MDS switches, which are Fibre Channel only. Those MDS switches connect to Cisco Nexus 5000 switches, which connect to blade servers using FCoE.

"We are looking at FCoE direct-connect options to eliminate the [Cisco] MDS switches eventually, but that is a few years away probably," Patrick said.

Patrick also said he wouldn't be opposed to deploying iSCSI or NFS (network file system) as his IP-over-Ethernet storage protocol in the future, but he experienced problems in the past with regard to high-end storage performance needs.

For his virtual machine file system data, Patrick said he wanted to use a "more proven standard."

"I'm kind of old school when it comes to Fibre Channel," he said.

Forrester's Reichmann has no doubt how the tension between Fibre Channel and Ethernet will get resolved. Despite its adherents, Fibre Channel is on a long slow slide toward obscurity.

"In the long run, Ethernet is going to win," he said. "How long it's going to take to get there is unclear."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His email address is

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This story, "Protocol Wars: Can Fibre Channel Survive Ethernet's Assault?" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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