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Difference between FCoE and FCIP


For enterprise operations, data management is an essential operation, and it requires powerful, robust designs in order to meet demand. That is why storage area networks (SAN) are so common. They provide centralized storage that consolidates large amounts of data while providing sufficient access to that data.

With SAN, you will often find that multiple types of connections are necessary to serve every need of the system, so you will be working with copper connections and fiber optics simultaneously. When those different infrastructures need to communicate, you need methods that bridge the gap.

When it comes to building connections between fiber channels and Ethernet, you have a few different options. Two of them are FCoE and FCIP. These represent dramatically different approaches to creating and maintaining cross-system communications, and it’s important to understand each of them in order to inform any networking decisions you make down the line.

What Is FCoE?

First off, it stands for Fiber Channel over Ethernet. This is a system that works to unify LAN and SAN connections. Essentially, it allows for both types of traffic all in the same infrastructure. That means that different connection types are able to transmit without the installation of new systems. In other words, FCoE is unifying traffic into what is commonly referred to as a converged network.

In practice, FCoE makes it substantially easier to mix and match data and storage options for enterprise networks. You can have fiber, Ethernet and other connection types because FCoE will converge them for seamless communication.

There are a few key aspects to FCoE networking. For starters, it works at all stages. This means it works in the host-to-network stage. It can also provide network-to-network communication, and it works directly for network-to-storage setups.

Additionally, FCoE operates directly above Ethernet in the protocol stack. Because of this, it does not route across networks, but within a network, it provides an adaptable solution for communication between different types.

FCoE is commonly used with blade server setups to improve scalability and communication options. Specialized servers can switch communication between copper and fiber as needed, allowing admins to use both LAN and SAN distribution according to current business needs. Essentially, it’s a highly adaptable solution.

What Is FCIP?

FCIP stands for Fiber Channel over IP. This is SAN to SAN communication that is used to transport fiber channel communication on an IP network. The key to FCIP is that it uses a tunnel. Instead of merging traffic, it is bridging communication between fiber channels and high-speed Ethernet.

The primary purpose of FCIP is the consolidation of input and output. Because it essentially replaces fiber links with Ethernet, it allows different types of devices to communicate in ways that would otherwise be inaccessible.

FCIP relies on SCSI for interfacing. Because of this, it only works at the switch-to-switch stage. It can’t be used across multiple stages like FCoE can.

On the other hand, FCIP is routable across different networks, making it more applicable for a different set of applications. These include centralized archiving, data migration between sites and remote replication to a different site.

Most importantly, FCIP allows fiber channels to route over existing Ethernet switches and routers. This allows network designers to minimize equipment costs when implementing new FC components to the network.

Bottomline on FCoE & FCIP

These two setups provide very different mechanisms for enabling communication between fiber and copper systems. Many high-end networking applications will require some form of cross-communication, so picking the right methodology is important. FCIP is superior for creating tunnels between different networks for seamless communication. FCoE shines for SAN setups that regularly need to switch how they communicate with different devices within the server system.

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