Battle Lines Drawn for 8G Fibre Channel

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Much of the Fibre Channel industry is eagerly awaiting what many believe to be the ultimate savior of the technology, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), which is due for final ratification this fall. Commercial deployments should begin early next year.


In the meantime, the race is on to see who will dominate the latest advance in native Fibre Channel, 8 Gbps throughput.


As expected, QLogic and Emulex have drawn battle lines, with each on the move to line up as much industry support as they can muster. Both companies have garnered some significant victories in the past few weeks.


Qlogic is looking to cover all the server, storage and virtualization bases for its 8-gig infrastructure line. The most recent additions include FalconStor, which has certified QLogic for its Virtual Tape Library, Continuous Data Protection and Network Storage Server solutions. That comes on top of the SANbox and 2500 Series of switches certified for the HP StorageWorks 8 Gb Simple SAN Connection portfolio. The 2500 is also certified for native support of VMware ESX and ESXi 3.5 to extend virtual I/O capabilities to virtual machines.


Emulex is fighting back with its LightPulse HBA, which also recently gained certification for VMware's ESX and ESXi environments. The LightPulse supports the N-Port ID Virtualization (NPIV) standard, which allows virtual machines to access their own protected storage. 8G LightPulses are also shipping with IBM's System x servers, with the two companies claiming new records for transaction processing.


Storage manufacturers, meanwhile, are busy upgrading their systems to support 8G Fibre Channel. Shigeo Honna, Hitachi Data Systems' general manager of strategic business planning, is quoted here as saying 8G FC probably will show up in the company's lineup in 2009, while NEC's Karen Dutch says the company is prepping the D-Series storage system for 8G.


Eight-gig clearly represents a step up from 2G and 4G Fibre Channel solutions, but the question remains whether it will have many takers in between lower-end Ethernet solutions and higher-end Infiniband. And once FCoE debuts, current Fibre Channel users will be sorely tempted to bump up to 10 GbE anyway.


So in the end, 8G Fibre Channel could be seen as a stopgap measure, but it's likely to be a costly one.