Oracle Prepares Network Convergence for Its Red Stack

Exclusive: Six months after the closing of the Sun Microsystems acquisition, Oracle now is apparently close to launching FCOE connectivity provided by QLogic. Oracle hasn't made the IT infrastructure announcement yet, although QLogic is on the record about it.

Strange as it sounds, Oracle and FCOE-Fibre Channel over Ethernet, the new wave of data center connectivity that most full-service IT infrastructure providers are already on top of-haven't been mentioned in the same sentence until now.

Why? Because Sun Microsystems was working on getting products to market using FCOE when it got caught up in its 2009 acquisition-at first by IBM, which eventually passed on the deal, and then by Oracle, which eventually closed the transaction in January 2010.

Naturally, during those uncertain months customers were wary of buying Sun products, so sales fell away to zero. Salespeople couldn't sell, internal developers and marketing folks weren't sure how to best use their time, and Sun's lame-duck management was stymied. An optimal business environment it wasn't.

Thus, research and development of Sun's FCOE, along with many other products, came to a grinding halt. But six months after the closing of the $7.4 billion acquisition, Oracle now is apparently close to launching this new-generation connectivity option provided by network adapter and storage controller maker QLogic.

The company simply hasn't announced it yet, and an Oracle spokesperson was unable to provide comment for eWEEK on July 23.

FCOE allows Fibre Channel-which is expensive, high-end networking-to use 10 Gigabit Ethernet networks while preserving the Fibre Channel protocol, in which numerous enterprises have invested billions of dollars over the last decade.

Oracle hasn't been shy about reminding people that as of this year it provides the top-to-bottom data center stack, plus all the middleware, management tools and applications to go with it. It's called the Red Stack.

Of course, adding FCOE to its data center catalog requires that the entire Oracle Red Stack be retooled to be able to use this fast, flexible option. And because Oracle is late to this party, there's been pressure to get it done.

QLogic is in the center of all this change

Word about this leaked out during QLogic's earnings call July 22 and was first blogged about by Wikibon analyst Stuart Miniman and Silicon Angle's John Furrier. But neither obtained comment or perspective from QLogic, the supplier of Oracle's-as well as other systems makers'-server and storage adapters that enable FCOE.

Oracle, like several other systems providers, brands its stack as its own and doesn't broadcast what components it licenses to put inside its boxes. But since the QLogic connection became public at the earnings call, the topic is now fair game.

"To date, Oracle has not announced any converged networking support for any of its servers [or storage]," Steve Zivanic, QLogic senior director of corporate communications, told eWEEK. "The news is that now they are bringing network convergence to this stack. We're enabling them to have the connectivity for these new virtual data centers."

Oracle markets its big Sun SPARC-processor-powered M series servers for large data centers and the T series entry-level servers for midrange enterprises, along with other x64 platforms.

"They're all going to be running the [QLogic] conversion network adapters that are being used by NetApp, IBM Power systems and others," Zivanic said. "From a big-picture standpoint, Oracle is building out its stack. They already own the database, the applications, hardware, servers, storage-everything all-inclusive-and now they're adapting this for a converged network-for the converged enterprise, if you will."

And not a moment too soon, either. Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems and Dell, as well as the aforementioned IBM and NetApp, already are offering converged-type data center infrastructures.

Definitions are appropriate here. "Converged infrastructure" from a communications standpoint refers to an infrastructure that supports the delivery of voice, data and video over the same IP network.

From a data center standpoint, a "converged network infrastructure" refers to two things: the consolidation of physical components of servers, storage and networking into fewer and smaller boxes, and the ability to select from various choices of networking that include Fibre Channel, FCOE, iSCSI and InfiniBand.

Oracle Sun Storage 7000 gets Fibre Channel option

Another significant news item, Zivanic said, is that Oracle's front-line Sun Storage 7000 System product line-formerly known as "Amber Road" back in development at Sun-has never had the option of Fibre Channel connectivity. Until now, that is.

"Now they're [Oracle] selling our 8G-bit Fibre Channel adapters to expand the addressable market" for Storage 7000, Zivanic said.

The Sun Storage 7000 array, with its ultrafast Zettabyte File System and highly regarded DTrace analytics, has been one of Sun's clear storage successes in the last couple of years. Adding the Fibre Channel option will undoubtedly make it attractive to a wider enterprise audience.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...