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iSCSI vendor EqualLogic takes on Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)

In part one of our Fibre Channel vs. iSCSI face off, an EqualLogic exec makes the case that Fibre Channel should stay right where it is and let iSCSI and 10 Gbps Ethernet take over the channel.

In our story last week, a group of storage manufacturers made the case that the Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) specification they submitted to the American National Standards Institute would help customers and the channel make the transition to IP. ISCSI manufacturers made the opposite case. We decided to give both another chance to speak.

Here is part two of our pro and con Q&A on each side of the question.

Read the Fibre Channel side
Fibre Channel vendor Brocade calls iSCSI vendors static

Below you'll find the case made by John Joseph, vice president of marketing for enterprise-class iSCSI vendor EqualLogic who spoke by phone to's senior news writer Nicole Lewis.

Click here to read Brocade's opposing view from Doug Ingraham, senior director of product management.

Nicole Lewis: There has been some speculation that larger vendors don't want to support iSCSI's advancement because FC is a more expensive infrastructure and they'll lose profit margins if iSCSI advances. Do you think there's a resistance on the part of larger vendors to keep Fibre Channel going because of the profit factor?

John Joseph: Absolutely. This announcement means Fibre Channel vendors are planning to get rid of the FC wire, but are keeping the protocol, which is hard for customers to implement and manage, but preserves vendors high-margin equipment, professional services and peripheral sales.

Existing Fibre Channel customers will have to upgrade and absorb a lot of costs to convert their FC infrastructure. That is why Fibre Channel vendors don't move to the iSCSI protocol -- there is too much money at stake.

Lewis: How will the FCoE specification affect iSCSI's growth?

Joseph: It won't significantly. It's a further validation that iSCSI is the way to go. When we get to the point where 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) networks are widespread people will wonder why they have to choose iSCSI or FC and I believe iSCSI will be the interface of choice. It's much simpler technology for customers to use. Forecasts at this time show iSCSI will be a $5 billion market [by 2010] and we're already seeing iSCSI extending into the Fibre Channel segment today.

Lewis: If it does affect iSCSI growth, then what will this mean for your company, particularly for your VARs?

Joseph: Our company, VARs and customers are all convinced of iSCSI's future and are unshaken by this news.

Lewis: Do you think this specification will lower the cost of FC to the point where it will become more attractive to the SMB space, which for the most part is where iSCSI is attractive?

Joseph: No. This is an example of a potential vendor lock-in strategy, to keep customers buying expensive technology and maintain product and services profit margins.

"When we get to the point where 10 GigE networks are widespread . . .  I believe iSCSI will be the de facto interface of choice."  
John Joseph
vice president of marketingEqualLogic

Lewis: : This specification is expected to be available in products by 2009, just around the time 10 GigE is supposed to come on strong. Do you think that's a coincidence?

Joseph: Large vendors are doing this at the same time that 10 Gbps will be mainstream because they are threatened by it. Also, iSCSI isn't only a better protocol or interface because of the capital costs, it's a much simpler more flexible technology to manage.

Lewis: Will having a protocol like FCoE in the high-speed Ethernet products make those products more attractive to SMBs?

Joseph: Fibre Channel is a protocol that is inherently unnecessarily complex for SMBs to manage, no matter the transport method. They don't want the complexity. That's why EqualLogic's simplified iSCSI SANs are being used today by thousands of customers – from SMBs to enterprises.

Let us know what you think about this story; email: Nicole Lewis, Senior News Writer.

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