My Cisco Live misadventures continued with Cisco FCoE product manager J Metz. This was my first time meeting J, a former university professor who these days promotes, evangelizes, and drives the development of FCoE products and technology. I’ve followed him online for sometime and was pretty jazzed once learning he agreed to our interview. I hope you enjoy…
Vaughn: “What do you think the most difficult questions you’ll be asked here at the show will involve?”
J: “Attendees here are wicked smart. They know their networks better than anyone else on the planet. Very humbling. I’m expecting to get some very specific questions about their environments, and some of those will probably be pretty darn tough.”
Note: We quickly ditched the interview script and in favor of last week’s interview with Andy Sholomon where we discussed Ron Fuller’s Virtual Device Context session, was rumored to have attracted 1800 registrants.
Vaughn: “What do you feel is driving interest in Virtual Device Contexts (VDC)?”
J: “You know, Cisco creates wonderful pieces of equipment but there are some many cases where what a customer truly wants is for these technologies to work with in their existing environment, be it technically and operationally.”
“Let’s change the approach on this topic shall we? We’ll put the cart back behind the horse… Typically, one of the things storage people are concerned about is that if they hand everything over to the Ethernet admins they will lose control but will be held accountable. For some crazy reason they don’t like that.”
“What VDC does is address the culture clash between storage & network admins. We now have a consistent approach with the Nexus 7000 that essentially enables the Ethernet network admin to set up a virtual storage switch (via VDC) that they can then delegate management access to the storage team to manage as if it was a traditional FC switch. By enabling role based access control VDC moves folks closer to a meeting of the minds while still enabling a clear delineation of roles.”
Vaughn: “Multihop FCoE is a hot topic for many folks, and one that I know you’re very passionate about. What do you find most exciting?”
J: “Put simply, people can do things they were never able to do before. Typically due to storage, network, and other budgets there ends up being a ‘leapfrogging’ effect in our data centers. Ethernet and SAN networking teams are racing to have the premiere network. Not to mean that a lot of people have multiple vendors and even – dare I say it – multiple storage vendors. With the old model, if you run out of FCP bandwidth or ports you can’t just borrow some from the Ethernet side of the house. One of the great things about Multi-hop FCoE is that it uses the same underlying infrastructure and allows you to right-provision capacity. This way end users aren’t forced into a specific type of topology and can get out of the ‘I have a box, what can I do with it’ mindset and start thinking along the lines of, ‘I have traffic flows, and where can I put a switch within'”
Vaughn: “I hear you refer to multi-hop FCoE in the context of what I’d normally assume are datacenter Ethernet context. But the way you position, it almost seems like you’re using them ubiquitously…”
J: “Oh … you’re right. I do tend to gloss over the difference. Most people come from a specific background, thus I tend to straddle a chasm between Ethernet & SAN. I often use FCoE as a synonym for converged I/O. Good catch.”
Vaughn: “It sounds like you’re talking about building a unified form of fabric to deliver all services, have means to deliver and enable delegated management. When you look at change in datacenter, you’re talking about a hybrid form of infrastructure with systems virtualized, physical, etc. Obviously FCoE brings SCSI attributes that we had requirements for physical servers, don’t need for virtual. Do you believe FCoE will remain relevant as the mix of physical to virtual resources evolve?”
J: “I know the criticisms of Fibre Channel and of file-based storage. The reality is that until a realistic replacement comes into play to migrate SCSI traffic to a new, better system both will still exist.”
“Part of what makes people comfortable with new technologies involves knowing right questions. What I like best about being here at Cisco Live is the opportunity to meet new people and understand their needs. It seems like half the time I meet folks their first question is almost adversarial, along the lines of “why would I want to do xyz.” Well I dunno, … why would you? It’s about asking the right questions and having a dialogue to find out what the real problems are before you try to define a solution.”
Vaughn: “Time to wrap this up … last question is an easy one, or at least it should be. How do you see the Cisco & NetApp partnership benefiting end users?”
J: “Without a doubt, our history & track record are among our greatest strengths. For the overall FCoE standard, Cisco contributed core intellectual property and NetApp was a principal participant. In 2008, Cisco & NetApp announced industry’s 1st native FC0E storage array and then last year with VMware we announced the 1st end-to-end FCoE solution with FC0e initiators & storage targets. We have significant momentum, and can point back to a narrative of working together and coming up with solutions in the customers’ best interests.”
Wrapping This Post Up
I’d like to thank J for taking some time to chat. J’s blog posts and tweets are some of the best reads online, his style is very engrossing. I truly appreciate J’s thoughts and style of delivery. The interview was an absolute blast. I encourage you to catch one of his future speaking engagements.
I’d like to take a moment to thank Friea Berg for making the interview series a reality. Thanks for all of the support!
We’ve had a number of great interviews from Cisco Live with more on the way! Here’s hoping you’re enjoying the series.
The official NetApp at Cisco Live site highlights Cisco & NetApp speaking sessions, demos in the NetApp, Cisco and Wyse booths, our prize patrol and much more. We’re regularly updating our ‘Who to Follow for FlexPod at Cisco Live‘ list plus you can find the latest blog posts, pictures and updates on the FlexPod FaceBook page.