SoE, SCSI over Ethernet.

It may come as no surprise that I'm not a fan of FCoE. Although I have nothing against the underlying thought of converged networking I do feel that the method of encapsulating multiple protocols in yet another frame is overkill, adds complexity, requires additional skills, training and operating methods and introduces risk so as far as I'm concerned it shouldn't be needed. The main reason FCoE is invented is to have the ability to traverse traffic from Fibre Channel environments through gateways (called FCF's) to an Ethernet connected Converged Network Adapter in order to save on some cabling. Yeah, yeah I know many say you'll save a lot more but I'm not convinced.
After staring at some ads from numerous vendors I still wonder why they never came up with the ability to directly map the SCSI protocol on Ethernet in the same way they do with IP. After all with the introduction of 10G Ethernet all issues of reliability appear to have gone (have they??) so it shouldn't be such a problem to directly address this. This was the main reason why Fibre Channel was invented in the first place. I think from a development perspective this should be an evenly amount of effort to have SCSI directly transported on Ethernet compared to Fibre Channel.From an interface perspective it shouldn't be such a problem as well. I think storage would be as happy to shove in an Ethernet port in addition to FC. They wouldn't need to use any difficult FCoE or iSCSI mechanisms.

Since all, or at least a lot, development efforts these days seem to have shifted to Ethernet why still invest in Fibre Channel. Ethernet still has a 7 layer OSI stack but you should be able to just use three, the physical, datalink, and networking layer. This should be enough to shove frames back and forth in a flat Ethernet network (or Ethernet Fabric as Brocade calls it).For other protocol like TCP/IP this is no problem since they already use the same stack but just travel a bit higher up. This then allows you to have a routable iSCSI environment (over IP) as well as a native SCSI protocol running on the same network. The biggest problem is then security. If SCSI runs on a flat Ethernet network there is no way (yet) to secure SCSI packets arriving at all ports in that particular network segment. This would be the same as having no zoning active as well as disabling all LUN masking on the arrays. The only way to circumvent this is to invent some sort of "Ethernet Firewall" mechanism. (I'm not aware of a product/vendor who provides this but I've never heard of it.) I'ts pretty easy to spoof a MAC address so that's no good as a security precaution. 

As usual this should then also have all the other security features like authentication, authorisation etc etc. Fibre Channel already provides authentication based on DH-CHAP which is specified in the FC-SP standard. Although DH-CHAP exists in the Ethernet world it is strictly tied to higher layers like TCP. It would be good though to see this functionality on the lower layers as well.

I'm not an expert on Ethernet so I would welcome comments that would provide some more insight of the options and possibilities.

Food for thought.

Regards,
Erwin

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About Erwin van Londen

Master Technical Analyst at Hitachi Data Systems
Fibre Channel, Storage Networking , , ,