Intel introduces OpenFCoE, offers cheap fibre channel over Ethernet on-ramp

Intel has introduced a new, cheap, way to connect servers to Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) networks, and taken a dig at other FCoE rivals along the way. But the release may not save users the real cost of a new FCoE network.

Intel has introduced Open FCoE, a free host-based software stack that enables Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and helps deliver unified networking without specialized hardware adapters.

Open FCoE is a free upgrade to Intel's 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) Server Adapter X520 family. FCoE allows organizations to run FC and Ethernet traffic over a unified network. Intel said Open FCoE is supported by storage vendors EMC and NetApp, and Fibre Channel switch vendors Cisco and Brocade. It has also been certified for Microsoft Windows, and Red Hat and SUSE Linux.

The new stack is seen by one industry observer as an important step in the evolution of FCoE, as it adds another choice to the market while attempting to paint some vendors’ FCoE implementations as proprietary.

“This move by Intel certainly starts to 'draw the lines' in the unified fabric war,” says David Deakin, storage and data centre consultancy Thomas Duryea’s National Practice Manager for Data Centre Solutions. “It's a move that seems that Intel is throwing their hat in with the Cisco UCS players, against the Brocade and HP converged network solutions. At the very least it will accelerate the adoption of FCoE solutions in the marketplace due to Intel's dominance in the server adapter arena.”

Another observer, who requested anonymity, suggested that the new stack may not be particularly attractive to end-users, as it is FCoE switches – and not network adapters – that are the major source of cost in FCoE adoptions. The observer added that he sees few uses cases for FCoE, other than booting from SAN, which means 10GB Ethernet is a more attractive alternative.

A third observer, a representative of an enterprise system integrator and NetApp reseller, agreed that network adapters are not a game-changer.

“The cards are a minimal cost but assists in getting customers into Nexus 5k and Validates UCS even further,” he wrote to SearchStorage ANZ, adding “NetApp will love this as they are the only guys who truly do one wire for FCoE, EMC still needs multiple cards for CX and NS.”

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