Essential guide to datacentre convergence

By Martin Courtney
24 Jan 2012 View Comments
Man in a datacentre

Datacentre convergence may take a great leap forward with FCoE, but few organisations will need this sort of data capacity right now

Further reading

The convergence of storage area network (SAN) and local area network (LAN) architecture onto a single architecture will offer companies at least the potential to reduce costs and increase storage and speed. Potential, because previous LAN/SAN convergence attempts based on iSCSI and Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) have achieved, at best, only modest success. However, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) may tip the balance by helping reduce maintenance requirements.

LAN/SAN convergence and FCoE is only one element in a wider trend towards converged datacentre architecture, where the IP LAN and Fibre Channel SAN are converged together with server backplanes to minimise the amount of equipment in the datacentre, thus saving space, power and management resources.

“The way we see it is that this is going to reduce end-user costs from a capex and opex point of view, because if you start putting data and networking into a single cable, less hardware and maintenance is required,” says Eugene Berger, solution architect at HP UK & Ireland.

“With the adoption of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE), we’ve reduced the number of physical cables from multiple one Gigabit links to one 10GbE link, but there is still an FC cable for the SAN. So the natural adoption is to have FC and Ethernet and look to converge those two.”

Emir Halilovic, programme manager for networking and infrastructure at research company IDC, agrees: “There are often latency and application performance problems [in datacentres], and then the cost overhead of keeping three different teams managing three different parts of the datacentre. Adding additional capacity to all three is not going to make you a happy camper, with the demands being placed on datacentres [getting] higher by the day.”

The extent to which any one organisation has, or will, hit those pain points is anyone’s guess. For the moment, it seems that only telcos and service providers involved in the hosting business, which are moving large virtual server workloads between servers and storage resources, are even close. But Halilovic suggests that nobody can afford to be complacent and that an upgrade requirement is inevitable in the long run.

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