Hitachi Demos First 4-Gig FC Implementation -

Hitachi Demos First 4-Gig FC Implementation

Four-gigabit Fibre Channel received yet another big boost on Monday, with the first 4-Gig FC product implementation.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies announced Monday that it has completed a successful 4 gigabit per second Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FCAL) data transfer between two fully integrated hard drive controllers, the first 4-Gig announcement by a major disk drive storage player.

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Taneja Group, says the announcement is "the first 4G FC product implementation that I have heard about. It shows HDS (Hitachi Data Systems) is leading the pack in this migration. But bear in mind that this is two controllers talking FCAL at 4G speeds. That means the communication is on the drive's side and not on the host side, where fabric services are required."

In other words, "it is a step toward a solution, but is not a solution per se. Many vendors are vacillating on this migration, but certainly not HDS," Taneja continues.

"They are the first to demo, and the trend will be for all the HDD (hard disk drive) manufacturers to follow," says Tony Asaro, general manager of Enterprise Storage Group's ESG Lab. "Each of them has 4-Gig, and announcements will continue to happen over the next few months."

4-Gig FC has caught on quickly as a bridge between current 1-2 Gig systems and the 10-Gig systems of the future. One of 4-Gig's biggest selling points is that, unlike 10-Gig, it is backward-compatible with 1-2 Gig FC. 4G will also cost about the same as 1-2 Gig systems.

A Hitachi spokesperson said there are still "a number of other solution elements that will need to come together, from system backplane/HBA suppliers and the like," but that Hitachi expects to see customer solutions from the major systems builders by the end of the year.

Hitachi hails the demo as "a significant milestone in the advancement of hard drive interface standards."

Design engineers demonstrated FCAL loop synchronization at 4Gb/s between two fully integrated Hitachi GST hard disk controllers. The demonstration included the ability to initiate and complete LIP (loop initialization procedure) and port and process logins. With the loop established, both commands and data were transferred at 4Gb/s. The 4Gb/s FCAL specification is designed to allow for a data transfer of up to 400MB/s per port and up to 800MB/s in a dual port environment.

Hitachi said it expects to begin 4Gb/s FCAL hardware exchanges and testing with other industry suppliers immediately. The joint testing is expected to result in system-level hardware compatibility, the first step toward delivering 4Gb/s FCAL products.

Server and storage systems that integrate 4Gb/s FCAL components "are expected to provide the ultimate in system performance and reliability," Hitachi claims. FCAL-based hard disk drives are expected to be used in storage area network, file sharing, workgroup, and scientific and engineering environments.

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