Intel Asks Devs to Help Get LANs, SANs to Play Nice

Intel has released a software initiator package designed to promote the development of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) solutions for Linux, the company announced Tuesday.

Now available for download, the software is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 and is open to all FCoE developers for source code download, code contribution and feedback. It includes a target simulator so Linux developers can test and modify the FCoE software stack, Intel said.

“Server virtualization, database growth and compliance requirements have created a greater need for network storage,” said Pat Gelsinger, senior vice president and general manger of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group.

“FCoE makes it easier and less expensive to connect servers to the SAN,” Gelsinger added. “We expect the open source community to use this initiator stack to create reliable, standards-based FCoE solutions for their customers.”

Proposed Standard

FCoE is a proposed specification that will allow Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN) traffic to run over Ethernet. By consolidating LAN (local area network) and SAN traffic onto a single fabric, FCoE aims to simplify network infrastructure in the data center and give organizations more flexible options for deploying and managing existing SANs.

Vendors backing the standard, which was proposed in April to the T11 Committee of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), include Brocade, Cisco, EMC, Emulex, IBM, Nuova, QLogic and Sun Microsystems, as well as Intel.

Intel is a member of the T11 Fibre Channel standards body.

‘Key Capability’

“Fibre Channel over Ethernet will be a key capability for our customers offering seamless server and storage access in the data center,” said Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of the data center, switching and services group at Cisco Systems.

“The emergence of 10 gigabit Ethernet bandwidth combined with Cisco’s proposed extensions to Ethernet, enables a lossless and resilient fabric for data center I/O (input/output) consolidation,” Ullal added. “Cisco is pleased to see Intel taking a leadership role in FCoE.”

The new FCoE initiator code is based on a specification being developed by the T11 in the FC-BB-5 work group. The FCoE specification is expected to be completed in 2008.

‘A Critical Step’

“The classic challenge for any storage networking technology, whether Fibre Channel, FCoE or iSCSI, is developing support for the most important operating environments,” Richard L. Villars, vice president of storage systems for IDC, told LinuxInsider.

Fibre Channel, because of when it came out and where it’s used, is the dominant technology for all the Unix platforms and the mainframe world, as well as growing in importance for the Windows, VM (virtual machine) and Linux worlds, Villars added.

“FCoE is a critical step for companies that want to leverage their past investments in Fibre Channel SANs and networking software,” he explained. “This makes the transition to FCoE smoother as companies mix the older operating systems with the newer ones where much of the application development is going on today.”

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