Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) implementation best practices

With Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) being the latest talk in town, here are some tips to implement FCoE in your enterprise.

Broadly speaking, the Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocol is nothing but converged networks. In a typical data center, there are SAN and LAN networks. As opposed to LAN, in a SAN environment we are much concerned about the speed as we are going to access the data. Thus, there are two different networks and there is expenditure in maintaining both.

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Ethernet has evolved a lot from its childhood days and now it can support up to 10 GBps and can provide same performance as a SAN network. By converging the two, operational as well as capital expenditure can be reduced by almost 30-40%.

Who will maintain the networks?

By converging the two networks, operational as well as capital expenditure can no doubt be reduced. But, if FCoE were deployed would there be an issue as to who will maintain it? There may not be a separate team for this as of now. This standard is still evolving and people are not sure they'll need a separate network administrator. For some time there will be both storage as well as network administrator. However, in future there will only be a single person. Right now, people may not be proficient enough to handle storage as well as Ethernet network.

If an organization is building a data center from scratch, it should go in for FCoE since the upfront investment will be 15% less and operational expenses will be 40% less.
What to note while deploying FCoE

If an organization is building a data center from scratch, it should go in for FCoE since the upfront investment will be 15% less and operational expenses will be 40% less. In the existing ones, if they want to connect new servers to the SAN they can use FCoE. However, this has to happen phase-wise, like one server or one rack at a time.

When it comes to optical cabling, OM1 or OM2 cannot be used as it cannot transport the 10 G Ethernet. OM3 optical cabling has to be in place. CAT5 Ethernet cable will not work. Uptight CAT6A will have to be deployed for FCoE. Apart from these cares, FCoE is a very seamless upgrade.

It may take a decade for organizations to switch to FCoE. Right now, apart from new data centers FCoE is very relevant for cloud infrastructure as no upgradations have to be made later.

About the author: Prakash Venkatesan is the Group Project Manager of HCL Technologies Ltd. In charge of a group building FCoE and OpenFCoE software, Venkatesen frequently conducts presentations and training sessions on FCoE. Venkatesen holds a Masters degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from College of Engineering, Anna University.

(As told to Jasmine Desai.)

This was last published in October 2009

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