EMC, Ethernet and the Cloud

If you are already heavily invested in EMC infrastructure, it’s no secret that the future of your storage networking lies with the Ethernet.


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Any doubts to the contrary were firmly laid to rest at EMC World this week in Boston, where the themes of Ethernet, SSDs and private clouds were heard at just about every turn. It seems to be the company’s way of preparing its customers for the coming data crunch, estimated by some to top the zettabyte level this year.

And it does appear that EMC has all its ducks lined up in the Ethernet direction. Along with broad support from Cisco, which itself has positioned itself as the Ethernet guru for the coming age, EMC has tapped Brocade for Ethernet switch support — namely, a reseller agreement for the FCX 1 GbE switch, the NetIron CES 200 switch and MLX router and the ServerIron and TurboIron controllers.

It seems clear, then, that no matter where the Ethernet goes from here, EMC will be able to follow. All of which must leave Fibre Channel users wondering, “What do we get out of all this?”

The answer is not much. At best, the company has shown a willingness to tap native Fibre Channel for some of the protocol’s select features, such as the heightened security available in Emulex’s OneSecure HBA. The device is being integrated into the Clariion and Celerra platforms, primarily for its ability to offload much of the security overhead from the main CPU, cutting the overall cost of encryption some 70 percent compared to array- or switch-based approaches.

And then you have the company’s all-inclusive storage virtualization platform, the VPlex, which sports 8 G Fibre Channel host and array connectivity alongside a range of Ethernet options. But since the system is designed as the ultimate private storage cloud platform capable of tricks like global load balancing, it naturally has to be as broadly compatible with legacy systems as possible.

Mind you, none of this is intended as a cut on EMC. The Ethernet is the most logical choice for the converged network fabric, and the broad support of Fibre Channel over Ethernet indicates that the FC universe is prepared for its eventual status as a tier of Ethernet-based networking.

But it’s also likely that legacy, native Fibre Channel plants will keep plugging along for another decade or more, which means refreshes and upgrades will have to come from somewhere. For EMC customers, that support will likely come from Emulex and QLogic HBAs, plus whatever configurations come out of its partnership with Dell.

But from EMC itself? Don’t expect much. Its eyes are on greener pastures.

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