These were the exact words spoken by Vice President and Research Director Drue Reeves at the Burton Group Catalyst Conference in San Diego on Wednesday, with over 2000 IT professionals in attendance. I just about fell off my chair. I couldn’t believe what I heard, and from a major industry analyst. When I first said this back in 1999 when LeftHand was nothing more than a vision, people looked at me like I was crazy.
There are two major factors that are influencing analysts toward this way of thinking. Number one is the rapid adoption of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and the fact that 10 Gig-E will be on the motherboard of your servers within the next 2 years. The second thing is the Fibre Channel Industry’s endorsement of Ethernet with Fibre Channel Over Ethernet or FCoE (see my blog post “The Beginning of a New Era in Storage” November 12, 2007). IT professionals are also starting to realize the significant cost savings of having a single network to manage.
Another conference speaker made the statement, “if you are planning on buying a traditional Fibre Channel SAN today you’re wasting your money.” So what are your choices? According to the analysts it’s iSCSI or FCoE. The only problem is that FCoE won’t be shipping for a few years and they are still trying to figure out how to develop a bunch of hacks to Ethernet to provide congestion management (the IEEE 802.1Qau), enhanced transmission selection (IEEE 802.1Qaz) and priority-based flow control, which are all handled nicely by iSCSI and TCP/IP today. The good news for iSCSI shops is that iSCSI will be able to leverage these enhancements to Ethernet as well.
The question is whether or not you should wait for FCoE or deploy iSCSI now. Let’s face it, FCoE isn’t very compelling. For one thing, iSCSI is IP routable, making it a superior technology to FCoE (not routable – no IP support). Combine this with the fact that you will have to buy all new Cisco gear and HBAs for your servers just to run FCoE, and you’ll understand why I believe that iSCSI will still be the cost leader in 2 years. Intel is promising the first FCoE software initiator, but we all know how that goes. They promised the first iSCSI initiator as well, but Microsoft shipped the first stable iSCSI initiator a few years later and stole the show. I don’t see Microsoft endorsing FCoE anytime soon, and if they do it probably won’t ship for another 2-5 years.
The Fibre Channel guys are running scared and trying to save their high margin business with FCoE. In the mean time the iSCSI market is in hyper growth and moving up market very fast with 10 Gig. With LeftHand’s clustered iSCSI storage, you can build an iSCSI SAN that outperforms Fibre Channel SANs by clustering Gig-E links together, and we have over 3000 customers that chose LeftHand over Fibre Channel to prove it. Imagine when we start clustering 10 Gig links together!
The analysts are right, there’s no future in Fibre Channel. And here’s the best news of all for IT managers – it’s never too late to switch to iSCSI.