Fibre Channel Gets Revved Up To 16 Gb/sec Speeds
October 11, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Is the Fibre Channel protocol for linking servers to storage area networks going to go the way of all flesh, like Token Ring for networks did? Can anything survive the onslaught of the unstoppable Ethernet protocol, which steals every good idea from any new technology?
Fibre Channel over Ethernet may be available on many 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches today, but companies have made huge investments in Fibre Channel switches and adapters and they are not so keen on getting rid of those quite yet. Moreover, while everyone is talking about the latest Ethernet protocols being beefed up with the lossless protocols that are necessary for them to be the backbone of disk subsystems where you are not allowed to drop a bit and say that’s good enough (which you can do with certain kinds of network transmissions), the so-called Converged Enhanced Ethernet is still not widely deployed and therefore not generally trusted. And that means Fibre Channel will be kicking around for a while yet.
And thus, the Fibre Channel Industry Association, a consortium of storage industry leaders that controls the Fibre Channel specification, has announced it has completed the design of the next-generation 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel protocol.
The new 16 Gb/sec specification supports both fiber optic and copper links between switches, storage, and server adapter cards and is backward compatible with 4 Gb/sec and 8 Gb/sec devices so you don’t have to rip and replace all of your storage when you decide to move one component to 16 Gb/sec capability at some point in the future. According to the consortium, 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel will offer twice the bandwidth oomph (obviously) while at the same time cutting back on power consumption in switches and adapters by an estimated 25 percent. The move to 16 Gb/sec adapters and switches will allow companies to get by with fewer Fibre Channel links (helping them save money on adapters and switches and freeing up server slots) or double up the bandwidth and get more performance out of their disk arrays.
By the way, the consortium says that when it comes to SANs, 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel will offer about 40 percent better performance than 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches running the FCoE protocol. So Fibre Channel convergence onto Ethernet may not be a great idea–at least until 20 Gb/sec or 40 Gb/sec Ethernet is out, of course.
The first 16 Gb/sec Fibre Channel components are expected to be available next year.