Meanwhile, Dell says it recently commissioned Forrester Research to conduct a survey of the storage and unified fabric plans of 213 companies. According to Dell, the survey found that two-thirds of respondents are moving toward a unified fabric in one to three years; and of those with awareness or knowledge of unified fabric, 56% believe iSCSI is best suited while 27% believe FCoE is best suited.
Regarding storage purchases in the next 12 months, 10GbE and iSCSI arrays are the top two selections, Dell found in its survey. Among all survey respondents, 45% planned to purchase 10GbE switching or related components, while 39% planned to purchase iSCSI arrays.
Dell is encouraged by these findings and its position in the iSCSI market as customers consider converged data center fabrics."If you're looking to make a unified fabric decision today, you're looking at iSCSI, which has been around for … years now," says Travis Vigil, senior manager, Dell, who is responsible for the EqualLogic iSCSI storage portfolio. "There's years of testing and validation, real-world customer deployments behind it, and it allows you to unify your fabric at 1Gbps and 10Gbps. So it gives you more flexibility than what you may be able to realize with other technologies."
Both Vigil and Ross agree, though, that the religious wars are missing the point: the real unifier in the converged data center is a lossless version of Ethernet with flow control capabilities, which is being standardized now in the IEEE's Data Center Bridging task group.
"We violently agree on the 'over Ethernet' part," Vigil says. "Whether customers deploy iSCSI over that or FCoE is the next choice."
And the Data Center Bridging enhancements to Ethernet will benefit iSCSI just as much as FCoE in making the converged fabric lossless, low latency and more reliable, Vigil says.
"The difference is, (the DCB enhancements) are required for FCoE whereas for iSCSI you have flexibility in that they're not required -- but they do help in terms of providing more predictable performance in converged infrastructures," he says.
"We always find it a little challenging when people say it's one or the other -- no it isn't," Cisco's Ross says. "It's making sure that you have the right fabric in place that's going to be able to support any choice that you want and that you may have in your environment already."
So can iSCSI be used to converge your storage facilities with your servers and network as long as you have a lossless Ethernet fabric?
"I certainly think so," says Frank Berry, CEO and senior analyst for the Unified Networking Practice at IT Brand Pulse, a data center market analysis firm. "It depends on who the audience is."