FC and GE; Meeting on 10-Gig?

Arthur Cole

What does 10 Gigabit Ethernet have to do with Fibre Channel? According to a growing number of industry insiders, just about everything. At a time when lower-cost iSCSI and Infiniband technologies seem ready to eat Fibre Channel's lunch, mixing 10 GbE and Fibre Channel environments could be the ticket to the next level of enterprise connectivity.


Longtime Fibre Channel supplier Finisar sees 10 GbE as one of its fastest-growing segments now that more and more FC-based customers are looking to aggregate 10 GbE ports for high-performance computing and clustered computing. CEO Jerry Rawls is talking up the idea of new transceiver interfaces that support SAS, SATA and Fibre Channel via ports that plug in to a single switch capable of supporting any number of interfaces on demand.


Such a switch might be closer than most people realize now that the ball is rolling on the Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard. And it seems that one manufacturer, Woven Systems, is already looking toward that future with its new EFX 1000 10 GbE switch. Unlike traditional switches, the EFX 1000 supports full enterprise fabrics (up to 4,000 ports) all the way to 100 GbE, with latency as low as 4 microseconds.


Signal compatibility between Fibre Channel and Ethernet should increase as the industry heads to 10 Gb Fibre Channel, which uses the same physical layer design and 64B/66B transmission code as 10 GbE. While this may require some translation from the 8B/10B code for 1 and 2 Gb Fibre Channel, it affords higher bandwidth efficiency and other benefits of 10 Gb operation.


Fibre Channel also has a number of other techniques designed to press its advantage against rival formats. Topping the list is F-Port trunking, which will benefit enterprises looking to establish virtual ports from server to storage. Numerous companies have already shelled out big bucks for Fibre Channel networks and aren't likely to dump them any time soon.


In an age when system integrators make a killing off the fact that innumerable formats and protocols drive up the complexity in the data center, it's nice to hear that the advancement of technology shows signs of simplifying things for a change.

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