I stirred up a lot of controversy last week after posting what I thought was a fairly innocuous question: Will 16 Gb Fibre Channel Derail FCoE? That short post focused on the prospects for 16 Gb FC and was the result of questions I received from the audience at Interop New York. Yet the resulting controversy is all about the fitness of FCoE and my personal motivations. So I suppose it’s time to clarify my position more fully. This will be a multi-part series, since it’s getting kind of long, but let me spoil the ending for you: I believe that FCoE will displace traditional Fibre Channel (“FCoFC”) in about a decade.
This Is Storage!
The enterprise storage industry and market is very, very different from other sectors of IT. It can seem illogical and even foolish to outsiders, but there’s a method to the madness. It isn’t easy to “do storage right” and failures are catastrophic.
This is why storage architects are in love with “best practices” and hardware compatibility lists. And it’s also why I never recommend any solution that isn’t prudent, low-risk, and in widespread usage. Read that again. As much as I love startups and cool new technologies, I never recommend their products for enterprise production use. Storage people have always been cautious, and I’m a storage guy.
There’s also an extremely long tail for storage protocols since minor compatibility and interoperability issues can have major consequences, too. It’s crazy, really, that we still use SCSI as our primary protocol, but we do. Rather than replacing it with something more suited to virtualized environments we extend it with nips and tucks to make it keep working. As much as I’d like to just ditch SCSI and use a protocol that can handle unreliable networks, I know that won’t happen for a long time.
One must also consider the useful lifetime of enterprise storage devices and architectures. Today’s buyers will continue to use and grow their SAN for years to come. If history is a guide, it will take many years for anything to replace 8 Gb Fibre Channel as the majority datacenter SAN interconnect regardless of how awesome the replacement product is.
Just An Ignorant Old Man
So this is my axe, and this is how I grind it:
- I don’t care if anyone buys anything from anyone, let alone what they buy. I work for no man and I don’t need any vendor’s love. I take money from most companies from time to time, but none owns my loyalty.
- Although I love cutting-edge tech, I’m professionally very conservative and base all of my recommendations on my three-part definition of “Best Practice”. That includes the part about “widespread usage” – let someone else risk his job on cool new technology.
- I’ve watched all this happen before, and know it takes a long, long time for serious adoption of any storage technology. Real value is about way more than technical elegance, but it does eventually show through.
- I don’t care about protocols per se, I care about what customers do with them. I’m not an idiot or a luddite but I’m not a willfully-ignorant cheerleader, either.
I am biased against FCoE because it’s too new to be blithely and broadly recommended for production enterprise use. That’s all. Yes, the standards are standardized and there are products extant. But that’s not enough for me. Next, I’ll talk more about why FCoE is not ready for prime time.
Note: The original post, Will 16 Gb Fibre Channel Derail FCoE? was written as part of an ongoing paid contract with IBM Storage Community, a site funded by IBM. But that post was entirely my own conception and creation with no input from the site editors or IBM and should not be construed to reflect their strategy or opinion.