Why FC and FCoE vendors get beat up over bandwidth?

June 4, 2012 – 8:12 pm

Storage I/O Industry Trends and Perspectives

Have you noticed how Fibre Channel (FC) and FC over Ethernet (FCoE) switch and adapter vendors and their followers focus around bandwidth vs. response time, latency or other performance activity? For example, 8Gb FC (e.g. 8GFC), or 10Gb as opposed to latency and response time, or IOPS and other activity indicators.

When you look at your own environment, or that of a customers or prospects or hear of a conversation involving storage networks, is the focus on bandwidth, or lack of it, or perhaps throughput being a non-issue? For example, a customer says why go to 16GFC when they are barely using 8Gb with their current FC environment.

This is not a new phenomenon and is something I saw when working for a storage-networking vendor who had SAN, MAN and WAN solutions (E.g. INRANGE). Those with networking backgrounds tended to focus on bandwidth when discussing storage networks while those with storage, server or applications background also look at latency or IO completion time (response time), queuing, message size, IOPs or frames and packets per second. Thus there are different storage and networking metrics that matter that are also discussed further in my first book Resilient Storage Networks: Designing Flexible Scalable Data Infrastructures.

When I hear a storage networking vendor talk about their latest 16GFC based product I like to ask them what is the biggest benefit vs. 8GFC and not surprisingly, the usual response is like twice the bandwidth. When I ask them about what that means in terms of more IOPS in a given amount of time, or reduced IO completion time, lower latency, sometimes I often get the response along the lines of Yeah, that too, however it has twice the bandwidth.

Ok, I get it, yes, bandwidth is important for some applications, however so too are activity measured in IOPS, transactions, packets, frames, pages, sequences and exchanges among other units of measure along with response time and latency (e.g. different storage and networking metrics that matter).

What many storage networking vendors actually get, however they don’t talk about it for various reasons, perhaps because they are not be asked about it, or engaged in the conversation is that there is an improvement in response time in going from such as 8GFC to 16GFC. Likewise, there can be improvements in response time in addition to the more commonly discussed bandwidth.

If you are a storage networking switch, adapter or other component vendor, var or channel partner expand your conversation to include activity and response time as part of your value proposition. Likewise, if you are a customer, ask your technology providers to expand on the conversation of how new technologies help in areas other than bandwidth.

Ok, nuff said for now

Cheers Gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier, 2004)

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