Brocade has launched a range of adapters joining Fibre Channel over Ethernet and Convergence Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) into one platform. However, the company has said that it did not expect mass adoption of these emerging technology standards until 2011.

Moving to a Fibre Channel over Ethernet infrastructure will require a version of 10 Gigabit Ethernet that is lossless, and CEE is a proposed standard for deploying that, said IDC analyst Richard Villars. While FCoE and CEE aren't standard in data centres today, companies such as Brocade, QLogic, Emulex and Cisco are preparing products so they will be ready if and when these technologies attract attention from enterprise IT buyers.

Brocade has announced the 8000 Switch, a top-of-rack FCoE device with 24 ports for 10GbE CEE and eight ports for Fibre Channel at 8Gbit/s speed. Brocade has also launched single and dual-port Converged Network Adapters. These "provide classic Ethernet and storage transport functionality over a single link and deliver 10Gbit/s FCoE connectivity from servers to SAN fabrics and to the local area network," Brocade said.

Within a rack, the new switch will connect to servers equipped with the Brocade 1010 (single-port) and 1020 (dual-port) adapters. Brocade says its new products offer more bandwidth and consume less power in a smaller form factor than competing products.

In a similar announcement, Emulex recently announced a converged network adapter that is optimised for virtualised and blade infrastructures, while supporting numerous IP and storage networking protocols within a single chip.

Enterprises will probably start testing out Fibre Channel over Ethernet products this year, followed by limited deployment in 2010 and mass adoption in 2011 or later, according to Marty Lans, Brocade's senior director of product marketing.

Brocade's new products will become generally available through OEM vendors over the next couple of months, Lans said.

Villars agreed with Brocade's assessment that FCoE won't become a big deal in the enterprise until 2011. But those overseeing data centres using Fibre Channel over 4- or 8 Gigabit Ethernet will be intrigued by the new technology, he added.

Most iSCSI users seem not to be interested in Fibre Channel over Ethernet, because they want to avoid the complicated physical connections and management schemes related to Fibre Channel, Villars says.

For customers running blades and virtualised servers, the move to FCoE will significantly reduce cabling needs, according to Villars. But in order to gain mass adoption, server and storage vendors will likely have to tweak their own products to support the new protocols.

"This is an ecosystem. It can't just be one or two companies," Villars says. "Over the long run, companies would like this to be a converged network from end to end."