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The transition from 1 Gigabit per second (1-Gig or 1G) to 2-Gig Fibre Channel (FC) devices is nearing completion. In 2001, only about ten percent of the FC market consisted of 2-Gig FC devices. Last year, it was up to ninety percent. So, as with any aspect of computing technology, it was the perfect time to announce the next speed upgrade.
QLogic Corporation announced last April that it was going to start producing 4 Gigabit per second (4-Gig or 4G) Fibre Channel chips, host bus adapters (HBA), and fabric switches. In June the Fibre Channel Industry Association lent its support to this standard. Several manufacturers – including Hitachi Data Systems, Agilent, Seagate, and JNI – committed to developing 4-Gig products. In September, Infineon and PMC-Sierra released the first 4-Gig components (chips and transceivers).
It's important to understand, though, that at this point the change is being dictated by the manufacturers, rather than in response to consumer demand.
"There was not pent up user demand for 4 Gbps FC, nor were the major storage OEMs asking for the boost in performance," says Richard Villars, vice president, storage systems for Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "The move to 4 Gbps FC is being driven by silicon development patterns."
Because of advances in the manufacture of silicon and components, 4G FC will deliver twice the performance for about the same cost as 1G/2G. And, since it is fully backwards compatible with the lower speed components, the 4-Gig units can just be sandwiched in with the older ones, rather than having to perform a technology migration.