Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) may still be a couple of years from gaining traction in the data storage market, but there are some early adopters already signing on to use the storage networking technology.
On such customer is Oregon's Salem Hospital, which turned to an FCoE solution from Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) to upgrade its data center and improve business continuity, reduce energy consumption, and accommodate more storage from two key systems its electronic medical records (EMR) and picture archiving and communication system (PACS). Salem Hospital implemented Cisco Nexus family and Cisco MDS 9000 Multilayer switches to facilitate the upgrade while simultaneously moving to a virtualized environment and beginning the deployment of FCoE.
"We hit a wall on speeds and on how many virtual machines we could put in place," said Heng Him, a technologist at Salem Hospital. "The Cisco Nexus means we have three fabrics including FCoE, higher port counts and speeds, and we have been able to consolidate our data center to reduce space."
Salem Hospital is a not-for-profit hospital located in Oregon. This regional medical center is one of the largest of the state's 57 acute care hospitals and operates the busiest emergency department in the state.
Previously, the organization used mainly Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) pizza box servers that provided 2 to 4 Gbps Fibre Channel and were not fully redundant. These were supported on the storage side with what Him characterizes as a hodgepodge of storage area network (SAN) gear from vendors such as EMC (NYSE: EMC), Brocade, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and Extreme Networks. Some switches, for instance, were six years old, and one Hitachi Lightning box had put in almost a decade of service.
The servers were upgraded to Dell PowerEdge 2950, R610 and R710 rackmount models running Windows 2008 Server in both physical and virtual environments. Some older servers remain, however. EMC Clariion CX3 units became the disk array of choice.
As Cisco dominates in the networking arena, it made sense to implement the new Cisco Nexus switches, which were designed to enable both virtualization and FCoE. Salem Hospital looked at competitive offerings from Juniper Networks (NASDAQ: JNPR) and others, but Him pointed to Nexus features such as power savings, speeds and feeds, redundancy and the value of virtualized switches as the reasons he opted for Cisco.
"The full feature set of the Nexus, including FCoE, enables us to consolidate our hardware, reduce cabling and increase overall efficiency," said Him. "With the ability to deal with multiple fabrics, as well as higher port counts and speeds, the Nexus is future-proof."
One pair of Cisco Nexus 5020 Switches, with FCoE support, connects over lossless 10 Gigabit Ethernet to the hospital's newer servers, which host multiple healthcare applications and Microsoft Exchange. The Cisco Nexus 5020 separates the storage traffic from data traffic, sending the storage to the Cisco MDS-based SANs and the latter to the Cisco Nexus 7000 Switch at the core. Another pair of Cisco Nexus 5020 Switches connects to existing Gigabit Ethernet servers by way of Cisco Nexus 2000 Fabric Extenders.
QLogic CNAs connect the servers to the storage. According to Him, he only needs two cards per server (one for redundancy) compared to four in the past two for the network and two for Fibre Channel. Now one card can deal with both functions.