Faster Fibre Channel can ramp down

A decision by an industry group should mean that Fibre Channel products released in a few years should work with existing networks without extensive upgrades.

Officials at the Fibre Channel Industry Association decided to extend 8 gigabits/sec Fibre Channel to switched storage-area network (SAN) fabrics. With this capability, organizations that use 2 gigabits/sec or 4 gigabits/sec SANs will not need to invest in future upgrades.

When 8 gigabits/sec products become available — now expected in 2007 or 2008 — they'll include a feature that will allow them to automatically decelerate their data rate to match those of the lower-speed products.

Products with 4 gigabits/sec speeds should be introduced later this year.

The association's decision means that enterprises can plan their Fibre Channel investments without worrying that future upgrades will entail costly replacements.

"Our roadmap [now] enables suppliers and users to plan future products and architectures that complement the proven track record of Fibre Channel applications," said Skip Jones, chairman of the association's Speed Forum Committee and director of planning and technology for QLogic Corp.

The move could be important in the developing competition between Fibre Channel and newer Internet SCSI (iSCSI) storage interconnects.

Although Fibre Channel has the higher performance — iSCSI's highest data rate is just 1 gigabit/sec — iSCSI is cheaper to install and manage because of its use of familiar IP and Ethernet technologies, though the gap is narrowing.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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