Intel Eases Data Center Complexity with Free FCoE Stack

Intel is giving away its Open FCoE software stack in an effort to push the drive for a single networking layer in the data center. Microsft, Cisco, Oracle, EMC and others have signed on.

Intel is giving away a Fibre Channel over Ethernet software stack as it looks to accelerate the transition in data centers to a simpler and less costly single networking infrastructure.

Intel officials announced Jan. 27 that they are offering their Open FCoE software as a free upgrade to the company's 10 Gigabit Ethernet Server Adapter X520 lineup. The software stack is getting the support of a wide range of data center heavyweights, including operating system companies Microsoft and Red Hat, enterprise software maker Oracle, hardware vendor Dell, storage vendors EMC and NetApp, and networking companies Cisco Systems and Brocade Communications Systems.

As virtualization, unified computing and cloud computing continue to gain ground in data centers, businesses are looking for ways to reduce costs, increase efficiency and simplify management in their facilities. FCoE enables IT staffs to reap the benefits of both Fibre Channel-with its reliability-and Ethernet wide data center presence. Consolidating those data and storage networks onto a single 10GbE network can help reduce global IT spending by $3 billion a year and cut cabling in data centers worldwide by 400 million feet, according to Intel.

The idea also feeds into Intel's Cloud 2015 and Open Data Center strategies that the chip maker announced in October.

"What's frustrating for IT managers is that most of the data center dollars are spent on infrastructure costs, not on innovation," Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, said in a statement. "Expanding Intel Ethernet to include Open FCoE will help simplify the network and drive more of the IT budget toward innovation. We think IT departments can lower infrastructure costs by 29 percent, reduce power by almost 50 percent and cut cable costs by 80 percent by moving to a unified network."

At an event in San Francisco Jan. 27, Intel officials reportedly noted that Open FCoE can replace as many as 10 1GbE connections for a single server and two Fibre Channel connections. It also cuts down on the number of adapters needed in the network because it puts most of the processing for FCoE connections onto the server chips rather than within the adapters, they said.

Intel officials said they had been developing the Open FCoE software stack for many months, including working with the Linux community on the offering and with the IEEE Data Center Bridging standards group to ensure that Ethernet could work with FCoE traffic.

Open FCoE has been certified to work with Windows and Red Hat and SUSE Linux operating systems, according to Oracle. In addition, it can work with Cisco and Brocade switches, and storage systems from EMC and NetApp.

Cisco's Nexus 10GbE switches and its UCS (Unified Computing System) servers both support Intel's Open FCoE adapters, according to Soni Jiandani, vice president of marketing for Cisco's Server Access and Virtualization Technology Group.

"A unified fabric supports both compute and storage resources over a high-bandwidth transport to deliver greater data center efficiency, simplify management and can accelerate the deployment of virtualization and cloud-based services," Jiandani said in a statement.