The key technology in the converged network system is VMware's vSphere virtualization software, which has now been certified to operate with Cisco's Nexus 5000 Series switches and NetApp FAS series unified storage arrays. The networks also use converged network adapters (CNAs) from QLogic, which convert the Fibre Channel packets to IP packets at the host server level.
Earlier this week, Computerworld spoke with QLogic spokesman Steve Zivanic, who said Oracle recently began rebranding QLogic's 8100 series CNA to create its own FCoE converged network. Oracle now offers FCoE switches from Brocade .
QLogic doesn't offer standalone FCoE switches; it only makes FCoE switching ASICs, Zivanic said. But QLogic plans to offer FCoE switches in a variety of form factors soon.
"The key thing is this is the first time we've heard Oracle offer FCoE or converged networking," Zivanic said. "We've heard about their software, hardware, database servers and storage, but now we're hearing about their converged networking component integrated as part of their stack."
FCoE competes directly with Internet SCSI (iSCSI), which is a unique protocol that uses TCP/IP to send block-level packets over Ethernet. Typically, iSCSI is used to consolidate storage for Wintel server farms because it is inexpensive, though not as fast or reliable as native Fibre Channel. By contrast, FCoE is designed to replace the TCP/IP stack needed by iSCSI, and provides a unified network where both typical server and data storage traffic reside on the same wire within the data center.
Cisco's Nexus 5000 multi-protocol storage switch , which has 56 ports, is capable of directing both Fibre Channel and Ethernet traffic.
Stu Miniman, an analyst and researcher at Wikibon, wondered how big a deal NetApp's and Cisco's claim to have the first end-to-end solution for FCoE in a VMware server environment.
"I question how meaningful this configuration is, other than as a test environment," Miniman said in a blog post . "If a configuration is small enough that a single top-of-rack switch can support the solution, why would a NetApp customer go through FCoE?"