Fibre Channel, iSCSI Advances Promise More for Less

Storage users looking for greater performance at lower cost found some promising developments in Fibre Channel and iSCSI technology this week at Storage Networking World in Orlando, Fla.

Tom Hammond-Doel, board member of the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA), explained in an end user session how Fibre Channel is extending beyond the enterprise to the small and mid-sized business (SMB) market due to its performance and reliability.

Hammond-Doel said standards efforts could accelerate that adoption, with FCIA helping to extend the Fibre Channel protocol through close cooperation with the T11 standards organization on Fibre Channel-Serial ATA (FC-SATA). FC-SATA technology was first announced in June and was officially approved at that time by the ANSI INCITS T11 committee for technical standards development. The T11 standards working committee has now been officially formed, and a draft of the standard is expected as early as January 2006.

A number of companies illustrated advancements in natively connecting near-line ready FC-SATA disk drives into storage systems that use existing Fibre Channel embedded infrastructures. Emulex featured a demonstration showing live FC-SATA technology running from Fibre Channel I/O controllers to natively attached, mixed Fibre Channel and SATA disk drive environments.

Darrell Kleckley, vice president of training and consulting at, trains enterprise end users and SMBs on a variety of technologies. Kleckley commented that his students are interested in the SATA drive standard and how they “can implement Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage systems in a mixed FC-SCSI and FC-SATA environment.”

User interest in tiered storage solutions was the focus of a demo featuring 4Gbps Fibre Channel infrastructure natively connected to SATA drives from Seagate, Fujitsu, Western Digital, Hitachi and Maxtor via dual paths with SiliconStor’s Active Active-MUX. The drives were connected to Xyratex Fibre Channel SBODs (switched bunch of disks) with I/O Controllers from Agilent and Emulex.

iQstor unveiled a storage system that combines data services such as storage virtualization, snapshot, mirroring and remote replication features with fully redundant 4Gb Fibre Channel disk drives — all in a system designed for SMBs.

Users also saw maturing iSCSI technology and real-world demos from a number of vendors. Silverback Systems unveiled an iSCSI dual-port gigabit host bus adapter (HBA) based on the company’s high-performance network acceleration processor that is capable of delivering up to 440MB/s throughput and up to 250K (iSCSI I/Os per second).

Intransa previewed a storage controller module leveraging 10 Gigabit Ethernet technology in an IP SAN infrastructure, while Wasabi Systems introduced an iSCSI storage product that lets OEMs and VARs take off-the-shelf components from the PC server world and create dedicated networked block-storage appliances using standard TCP/IP and iSCSI protocols.

The conference’s Interoperability and Solutions Demo featured popular end user IP Storage Hands-On Lab sessions, where users enthusiastically drove provisioning and storage consolidation exercises on equipment from Adaptec, Brocade, Cisco, EMC, HP, McDATA, Microsoft, Network Appliance, QLogic, Silverback Systems, and Sun.

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