Mining for Fibre Channel Gold

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Continuing our discussion on the future of Fibre Channel, the technology may have its critics but judging by the level of competition that surrounds it, there are an awful lot of people who think there's gold in them thar' networks.


The cutting edge at the moment is in 8 Gbps systems, the next logical progression in the march from 1 to 2 to 4 and on the way to 16 Gbps and beyond. Some of the fiercest competition is for HBAs, with Emulex and QLogic on the prowl for platform support for their respective systems. QLogic had a big win earlier this month when HP tapped its 81Q device for the StorageWorks system, although Emulex recently snared support from Oracle's VM server for the LightPulse adapter.


Further up the network chain, we're seeing storage platforms uniting with data center fabric technology, like the recent agreement between EMC and Brocade to link up the Connectrix director with the DCX backbone system to produce the Connectrix ED-DCX-B director. The system quadruples the aggregate bandwidth of the current Connectrix line to 6.5 terabits per second, with integrated multi-protocol support for use with consolidated, heterogeneous environments.


Still unclear, however, is whether the industry is ready for 8G Fibre Channel. After all, 4G FC is only just getting under way, and as InfoStor points out in this editorial, only those groups with the most extreme I/O requirements are nearing the 4G ceiling. That may change once virtualization really kicks in and those multitudes of VMs start swapping data back and forth.


And in a strange twist, there is a strong possibility that the central argument surrounding storage networking -- Fibre Channel vs. iSCSI -- could very well fade into history, judging by the new fabric technologies coming out. Both of the major platforms introduced this year, the Brocade DCX and the Cisco Nexus 7000, are planning to support both protocols in future versions, either through dual support of 8G Fibre Channel and 10 GbE or through the emerging Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard.


Sure, there's still some question as to how much complexity this will add to network overhead as enterprises try to forge links between internal storage networks and the wider Ethernet world, but at least people are talking about a relatively peaceful coexistence in the near future.


And it's from unified networking that vendors are likely to mine the most gold.