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The future of Fibre Channel and Infiniband
Although iSCSI is one of storage's hot topics, it by no means has the spotlight to itself. Other technologies such as Fibre Channel and Infiniband are also on many storage managers minds, though the former is already the storage industry poster child to some extent. Fibre Channel is a technology for transmitting data at high speeds between computer devices, such as those used in storage systems, while InfiniBand is an architecture and specification for data flow between processors and I/O devices such as those found in storage devices. Of the two technologies, it is Infiniband that is tipped to become the new darling of the storage industry.
In the next few years, according to industry experts, InfiniBand is expected to gradually replace the existing Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) shared-bus approach used in most of today's personal computers, servers and other computing devices. "However", says Koifman, "Infiniband is struggling to identify itself outside of the bus connector realm. It may, however, find a home with virtualization boxes and will most likely play a key role in building distributed clustering solutions."
According to LaPlante, although both Fibre Channel and Infiniband are important for hardware-to-hardware communications, it is more a question of compatibility than of one technology coming to the fore."We still do not have heterogeneous fabrics because much of the hardware is still vendor specific." LaPlante believes that the issue with vendor-specific hardware must be solved before either Fibre Channel or Infiniband become the future of network storage. "At a high level, it's about the vendor-dependent issue. Customers want a multi-vendor strategy, they don't want to put all their eggs in one basket. Therefore network storage solutions need to move away from being vendor-dependent."
In common with just about every other part of the IT industry, there is one topic on which it is easy to get everyone to agree - the need for security in systems. As storage networks continue to increase in size and reach, the question many people are asking is 'how are storage vendors going to help secure the data running through storage networks?' Koifman believes that answer for storage vendors is to integrate existing technologies such as IP/sec, VPN, and wire speed encryption boxes into storage solutions.
In many cases, these existing technologies have proved themselves worthy in other areas of IT, as Viegut explains "In the IP world, technologies and products are readily deployed which ensure safe levels of data transport. With storage networks these do not exist in the same quantity as they do in the IP world." Viegut predicts that we will start to see more products related to storage security emerge over the next few years.
Overall, it seems that the storage industry figures we spoke to are more focused on the issues that face the industry as a whole, rather than the specific technologies. Consensus is that over the coming years, the subjects of security, vendor independence and price/performance will drive the industry more than any one technology.