VMware shocked the world today, pre-announcing an important addition to the vStorage family of APIs found in their marquee vSphere family of products. The vStorage API for Token Ring Integration (VATRI) promises to ease the transition to converged networks featuring the emerging Fibre Channel over Token Ring (FCoTR) storage protocol. According to a recent report by The D’Plata Group, FCoTR is set dominate the enterprise storage market, and this integration is a confident step in that direction.
The FCoTR Connection
VMware’s vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI) in vSphere 4 was a major step for vSphere, enabling the offload of thin provisioning and data protection tasks to a storage array. But array integration was not enough to cement iSCSI and Fibre Channel (FC) in the virtualized data center. Indeed, Cisco’s oft-reported troubles with the myriad enhancements needed to make Ethernet a viable converged networking protocol indicated that a more-appropriate alternative was needed.
Fibre Channel over Token Ring (FCoTR) was created by a group of top storage, networking, and virtualization minds and launched to much fanfare in 2010. The Fibre Channel over Token Ring Alliance estimates an uncountable number of supporters for FCoTR, and such luminaries as Greg Ferrous and Joe Iamsick have thrown their weight behind the protocol. But it takes more than a few drunken bloggers to change the course of history, and VMware’s support is critical.
Storage vendors were quick to jump on the FCoTR bandwagon beginning with Compelling (since acquired by Dull), Numble Storage, and NES, which announced their support at Tech Field Day immediately after the unveiling of the spec. Network vendors have been slower to embrace the standard, though many individuals have been spotted proudly wearing FCoTR buttons. But perhaps the most ringing endorsers are IBM and HP, with the latter proudly including FCoTR on a banner at their recent Technology Summit.
While VAAI integrates high-level storage functions, VATRI functions at a deeper level. VMware vSphere 5 will include a standard virtual Token Ring adapter with full FCoTR support, enabling seamless integration of storage and servers. FCoTR adapters certified by DampStorage Labs will also get a paravirtualized Token Ring driver for enhanced performance, reliability, efficiency, cost savings, and wholesomeness. Finally, the revolutionary Token Cleanup API will take care of dropped tokens, a common datacenter occurrence.
“I guess the cat’s out of the bag now,” reports VMware spokesman, Jon Truer. “I might as well agree that FCoTR will take its rightful place at the center of the datacenter.” This ringing endorsement was echoed by Microsoft “Virtual PC Guy” Lance Armstrong, who added “even though VMware is first to market, our MSATRI implementation will be superior in every way.”
VATRI beta testing has already begun. As usual, VMware’s vExperts were given early access to the API and have been using it in secret for months. “It seems to work ok,” claims Jason Botch, while vShawn Cleric donned a sweater vest emblazoned with the FCoTR logo to show his enthusiasm. Storage wonks were equally enthusiastic, with Robin Hairs suggesting that Apple was behind the curve for ignoring FCoTR in his StrangeMojo blog.
VMware is really showing leadership here. Adding FCoTR support to vSphere 5 just cements their position as the dominant technology company for the next century. Since server virtualization is the computing paradigm that will rule the world for ever and ever, their embrace of Token Ring makes perfect sense. I look forward to adding FCoTR adapters and arrays to my home lab just as soon as they show up on eBay!
Predictably, this story is getting major coverage! Check back throughout the day and I will update the page with news as it appears!