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I have just spent the last few days at EMC World in Orlando (Florida) getting wet hearing the cloud and virtualization story unfold. We saw lots of clouds in the skies over Orlando as we endured a pretty constant downpour from Sunday when I arrived.

There is no doubt that virtualization is warming up with lots of activity from VMWare, Cisco and others in the space but what is it really about? Under the spin and marketing speak what has happened and what are we to think about it? Actually there are two distinct but closely linked technical advances that we need to understand:

FCoE – Fiber Channel over Ethernet aka Lossless Ethernet a, yet to be accepted and still Cisco proprietary, new 10G technology that combines the SAN and LAN into a single high performance network (not before time in my humble opinion), eases the possibility of using virtualized network drivers in the compute space which makes moving the guest operating systems around faster and easier within larger clusters. It also cuts out a ton of cabling in the data center (and believe me that is crucially important).

vSphere – a VMWare technology marketed as a Cloud Operating system that can take advantage of the collapsed network and virtual network drivers to make operating a large virtualized infrastructure easier and more automated. Building on the virtual drivers, vSphere offers multipathing support to route around outages and migrate workload from one platform to the other in the event of an outage.

The great news is that vendors are lining up behind this new vision to deliver useful functionality in the data center that is a level beyond that offered by static clusters and shared storage arrays have been able to deliver in the past. The possibility of having zero down time when a piece of critical hardware fails is deliverable. Brilliant news for the businesses that rely on underlying data center functionality to serve customers.

Here is the problem though – we have great technology that works in the lab, early adopter customers working through use cases that deliver business value and lots of noise and spin from the vendors but…..

Not a word about the other components of new technology. What about the professional services support that are needed to implement these platforms? Where are the pre-worked templates and crib sheets that are needed to get the stuff on the floor and working? Where is the channel? Who has been trained and authorized to deliver joined up solutions? No doubt we will see lots of activity in this space going forwards but not a word about it in the keynotes at EMC World.

There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. Hi Steve – hope thanks for coming to EMC World. I gave the EMC session on FCoE and have to pick on one point in your post – FCoE is a standards based solution. Cisco is an important participant in the development of the standards, but I think that it is unfair to call it “Cisco proprietary”. The T11 standard is very close to ratification and the IEEE standard is at the point that multiple vendors can create products that will interoperate. I have a few pieces of collateral posted at http://nohype.tumblr.com/tagged/fcoe. I do agree that the technology will need to mature and that adoption cycles take time.
    Regards,
    Stuart Miniman, Technologist, EMC CTO Office

  2. Hi Stu,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Perhaps my language in describing the FCoE technology as “still Cisco proprietary” gives a more extreme view than I had intended. My point (and one that you acknowledge in your reply) is that the standard has yet to be ratified and as a result there is some degree of risk that additional patches and firmware updates might be required and a small risk of inter-operational failures and difficulties for early adopters.

    That said, the rich functionality and simplicity offered by a virtualized and collapsed LAN and SAN provides a huge upside for data center operators. I eagerly await the full adoption of the standard and the roll out of large numbers of rich and compatible hardware and software products that leverage these two core technologies.

    Regards

    Steve

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