I recently read a claim by one major supplier of Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) technology that it would be the dominant infrastructure in use in data centers in two to three years! Are you kidding me? Other than impossible that is just not the speed at which the data center moves. The data center evolves, it does not revolt.There is a constant stream of technologies that claim to have the ability to revolutionize the data center. Currently we have FCoE, Solid State Disk (SSD) and a laundry list of capacity reduction technologies. Technological shift takes years. For example SANs, despite all their advantages over direct attached storage, took five to six years to become commonplace. 3PAR was alone on the thin provisioning soap box for years before it became a must have capability. Data Domain had to try 15 different explanations of deduplication before it became a household (or data center) name.
Technology has to get past the hype phase and into the "understood phase" before it really becomes practical in data center use. Usually this is about two years after the storage industry thinks we have reached full adoption. For example deduplication, despite all the hype, is still only deployed in about 30% of all data centers and is still primarily used in the backup process. Just now companies like Data Domain, Ocarina Networks and Permabit are putting systems in place that address deduplication in the higher tiers of storage.
SSDs similarly have hurdles to jump, while clearly systems vendors like EMC and NetApp as well as SSD specific systems providers like Texas Memory and Violin Memory are seeing dramatic increases in their business. The technology needs to become more price competitive and easier to provide data management on. Companies like Storspeed and Nexenta are addressing the data placement issue by providing systems that have the intelligence to move data between SSD and mechanical drives automatically. This is critical for wide scale deployment since any empty space on SSD is 15X more expensive than empty space on mechanical drives.
FCoE is no different. As we discuss in our article "Planning for FCoE" the technology is becoming mature and there is a need to begin working it slowly into your data center as opposed to the forced path to premature migration. FCoE migration should be done gradually, not overnight and certainly most data centers will not be finished with the FCoE conversion in the next 3 years.
Technology should evolve into your data center. There is almost always a need that a technology like SSD, FCoE or deduplication can address right now. Implement it for those needs and where it can be easily cost justified. This approach allows you to solve today's problem now, then puts you in a place to better understand how to use the technology as it matures and becomes more cost effective.
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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.