In the Data Center: Open FCoE Brings Integrated Fibre Channel over Ethernet to VMware vSphere 5

On July 12th, VMware announced vSphere 5, the new version of its enterprise virtualization suite. There are many new features and capabilities in this product. From a networking point of view, one capability that’s pretty darn compelling is the native Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) support delivered through the integration of Open FCoE.

Not quite sure what that means? Read on.

In January, Intel announced the availability of certified Open FCoE support on our Intel Ethernet Server Adapter X520 family of 10GbE products as a free, standard feature. We had great support from our partners – Cisco, EMC, Dell, NetApp, and others – and we received plenty of positive press. Now, with the launch of vSphere 5, Intel and VMware have taken things a step further by the integration of Open FCoE in the industry’s leading server virtualization suite.

So what is Open FCoE and why is it important?

Open FCoE enables native support for FCoE in an operating system or hypervisor. Integrating a native storage initiator has some key benefits for customers who look to simplify their networks and converge LAN and storage traffic:

  • It enables storage over Ethernet support on a standard Ethernet adapter; no need for costly converged network adapters (CNAs) powered by hardware offload engines
  • Performance scales with server platform advancements, as opposed to CNA performance, which is limited by the capabilities of its offload processor
  • It enables FCoE on any compatible10 Gigabit Ethernet adapter, which helps prevent vendor lock-in.

Open FCoE support in vSphere 5 means VMware customers can now use a standard 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapter, such as the Intel Ethernet Server Adapter X520, for 10GbE LAN and storage traffic (including NAS, iSCSI, and FCoE), which ultimately simplifies infrastructures and reduces equipment costs.

The idea of integrating native storage over Ethernet support isn’t new; most operating systems and hypervisors have included a native iSCSI initiator for several years. We’ve watched as dedicated iSCSI adapters gave way to iSCSI running on standard Ethernet adapters with performance that increases with each bump in processor speed and platform architecture improvement. We expect Open FCoE to bring similar benefits to FCoE traffic.

Intel worked closely with VMware to integrate Open FCoE in vSphere and to qualify it with the industry’s leading storage vendors. We’re excited to see it incorporated into vSphere 5, and we feel confident that VMware customers will appreciate its benefits.

VMware’s Vijay Ramachandran, Group Manager of Infrastructure Product Management and Storage Virtualization, offered some thoughts on Open FCoE in vSphere and why it’s a good thing for VMware customers.

Is unified networking and combining LAN and storage traffic on Ethernet important to your customers?

Absolutely. Virtualization is a major driver of 10 Gigabit adoption, and network convergence on 10GbE is very important for our customers who look to increase bandwidth and simplify their infrastructures.

There are other ways to support FCoE in vSphere. Why is Open FCoE integration significant?

Integrating Open FCoE into vSphere is important because it makes FCoE available to all of our customers, just as iSCSI has been for years. When customers upgrade to vSphere 5, they get FCoE support on any compatible 10GbE adapter they have installed. That’s important because choice is a key pillar of VMware’s private cloud vision. With its support for standard 10GbE adapters and compatibility with FCoE-capable network devices, Open FCoE supports that vision. vSphere 5 has several new storage and networking features that increase performance and improve management, and with Open FCoE, we have a native solution with performance that will scale with advancements in vSphere and server platforms.

Can you tell us about the work Intel and VMware did to enable Open FCoE in vSphere?

We wanted to implement FCoE in a way that offered the best benefits to our customers. VMware worked closely with Intel for over two years to integrate Open FCoE into vSphere and to validate compatibility with their 10GbE adapters. It’s nice to see the results of that work in vSphere 5.

I’d like to thank Vijay for taking the time to answer these questions for us.

If you’re interested in learning more, see Intel and VMware: Enabling Open FCoE in VMware vSphere 5.

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