Cisco, Dell Blogs Feud over FCoE vs. iSCSI

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As the data center evolves, the technology industry’s largest companies are positioning themselves to be major players in the next-generation data center. Broad adoption of many of these new data center technologies is a long way off, but the battle for mindshare is under way. This was visible in last week’s exchange between the corporate blogs for Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Dell (DELL), which engaged in a spirited debate about storage networking protocols for the next-generation data center.

The discussion provides a good overview of the competition between Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and iSCSI, as well as how Cisco and Dell are using their blogs to advocate for the technologies they are supporting.

Cisco has made a huge bet on Fibre Channel over Ethernet as the unified fabric will serve as a platform for its ambitions in the next-generation data center. With the introduction of its Nexus 5000 Series switches last week, Cisco accelerated its efforts to advance FCoE as the right choice for a unified fabric, using company blogs and videos to educate customers and partners about Cisco’s strategy. That included a post from Dante Malagrino providing resources about FCoE.


iSCSI, a cheaper alternative to Fibre Channel, has also been advanced as a potential unifying standard for data center networking. Dell invested in iSCSI’s future with its $1.4 billion acquisition of EqualLogic, and has also been stepping up its use of corporate blogs to articulate its vision for the next-generation data center. Dell’s Marc Farley was quick and direct with his response to Cisco’s advocacy of FCoE:

So, here’s what I think about FCoE. Its about as stupid as a technology could be. Vendors making it just want to generate higher margins with a new technology. They want you to think its going to be better than the alternatives because they will be able to charge more for it. That’s how it is with all new technologies. The discussions about network performance are hogwash.

Dell Storage Product Strategist Matt Baker followed with a more measured post, clearly mindful that many Dell customers are using Fibre Channel. “We at Dell believe that iSCSI is a superior storage fabric and there are tons of reasons why … but we believe that FCoE is valuable for our many customers with legacy FC environments and provides a path to a fully unified fabric for those customers.”

Malagrino responded, articulating the merits of FCoE, and seeking areas of agreement with his Dell counterparts.

The bottom line is that I agree with Matt and I think that both FCoE and iSCSI have a role in evolving storage networks and ultimately making storage much more pervasive. The key enabler for both is Data Center Ethernet and the ability to leverage a lossless transport for storage traffic.

Farley offered an olive branch in the comments, and peace was restored in the storage networking blogosphere. For a few hours, anyway, until Jerome Wendt blogged about whether FCoE is “a diabolical plot,” opening a debate about the merits of FCoE vs. InfiniBand.

UPDATE: Chuck Hollis from EMC has also joined the discussion, offering his views on the merits of FCoE and future of iSCSI.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.