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Boot from Software FCoE – Detailed

For those of you who have been following my new vSphere 5.1 storage features series of blog posts, in part 5 I called out that we have a new Boot from Software FCoE feature. The purpose of this post is to delve into a lot more detail about the Boot from Software FCoE mechanism.

Most of the initial configuration is done in the Option ROM of the NIC. Suitable NICs contain what is called either a FCoE Firmware Boot Table (FBFT) or a FCoE Boot Parameter Table (FBPT). For the purposes of this post, we’ll refer to it as the FBFT. This table allows the VMkernel access parameters set in the NIC for FCoE boot.

Install ESXi on an FCoE LUN

The following is the sequence of events one would go through to install an ESXi 5.1 image on a FCoE LUN which is accessed via a NIC with FCoE capabilities and using the Software FCoE driver found on ESXi 5.1.

Booting ESXi from a FCoE LUN

Just like the boot from Software iSCSI feature, the boot from Software FCoE feature will assist many diskless blade servers boot from SAN without the need to have expensive HBAs or CNAs.

Why is there a FBFT & a FBPT? FBFT is FCoE Boot Firmware Table. This contains networking and FCoE details which we set in the FCoE Option ROM of the NIC before we commence the installation. It is Intel proprietary. FBPT is the FCoE Boot Parameter Table. It does the same role as the FBFT but it is VMware proprietary, and we share it with other NIC vendors who want to do boot from Software FCoE.

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