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Ethernet over Fibre Channel

Posted on 2013-05-27
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Last Modified: 2013-06-03
Not FCoE... ethernet over fibre channel.

I have two geographically separate sites... they're quite happily connected by fibre.

At present, I have FC GBICs plugged into Cisco Catalyst switches on either side, and it essentially gives me one big LAN.

The SAN at each site is FC, and I do application-based replication across this WAN from production to DR (ethernet based communication).

I just had a realization, but it may be one of those "no that's dumb" ideas.  I've not tried it, and testing it would involve disconnecting about 100 users from internet and production services... so not a good idea without a maintenance window.

Could I connect my Catalyst ethernet switches to the SAN fabric, connect the fibre between the sites to the fabric, maintaining my multi-site LAN and gaining one big multi-site SAN?

In case it matters, they're HP SAN Switches (Broacade Silkworm 200e).
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Question by:lunanat
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by:giltjr
ID: 39200021
I'm confused.

What protocol are you running over the WAN?  What type of WAN is it?

You also stated:

"At present, I have FC GBICs plugged into Cisco Catalyst switches on either side, and it essentially gives me one big LAN."

This is confusing as FC is not a LAN protocol, but a SAN protocol.  So I don't understand what you mean by having FC GBIC's in a Catalyst switch gives you one big "LAN.".

What type of Cisco Catalyst switch do you have.
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unfragmented earned 300 total points
ID: 39201050
Let me summarize your situation:-

2 sites.
Each site has a Catalyst based ethernet LAN and a Brocade based FC SAN.
1 pair of dark fibres.
Dark fibres currently used by the Catalysts at each site, giving you a LAN spanning both sites.

Objective:-
You would like your SAN to also span both sites.

Some Options:-
1. Connect SAN to LAN and Transport FC over Ethernet (FCoE)
2. Connect SAN over dark fibre, connect LAN to SAN and transport E over FC
3. Purchase a second pair of dark fibres so both LAN and SAN have their own media.
4. Use WDM to multiplex LAN and SAN over the same fibre.

Personally, I've used option 4 a number of times.  Cost effective, low complexity, supportable.  THe other three all have one of those drawbacks.
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by:lunanat
ID: 39201866
Unfragmented has exactly the idea.

Specifically, I was asking about option 2.  Would I need specialized hardware to allow for E over FC, or would the existing FC SFP work?  Or is that something that I'm not really going to be sure about without trying?
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by:giltjr
ID: 39201934
I personal have never heard of transporting Ethernet over FC and as of right now can't find any reference to it.

Depending on the distance (latency) and bandwidth, I would look at doing FCIP as it can give you data compression on the FC traffic.
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by:lunanat
ID: 39211960
I'll wait to see if unfragmented comes back with more details about the EoFC.
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Assisted Solution

by:giltjr
giltjr earned 200 total points
ID: 39212294
Yes,  I looked and Brocade does have a patten covering Ethernet over FC and I can find where in the early 2000's there was talk about doing it, but I can't find any product that actually supports it today.
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by:unfragmented
ID: 39214236
unfortunately as giltjr has pointed out, transporting ip and/or ethernet over fc didn't really take off, so i wouldn't call it a commercial solution.  The only reason i mentioned it was to ensure I understood your question.  

I've heard of people experimenting with it in the linux hacker spaces, but its definitely not as simple as plugging an ethernet SFP into a FC switch.

Personally, I would stick with option 4, due to its low complexity, but at the end of the day if FCoE or FCIP do the job, then its a success.
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Author Closing Comment

by:lunanat
ID: 39217507
Thank you both for your thoughts on the matter.  Appreciate your time.
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Expert Comment

by:giltjr
ID: 39217842
The choice of FCoE or FCIP is based on bandwidth you can afford and latency.

FCoE likes high bandwidth and low latency.  FCIP is more forgiving of higher latency and lower bandwidth, but only because it can do compression.
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