Fibre Channel Hits the Fast Lane at SNW

PHOENIX — Fibre Channel’s not taking a backseat at this week’s Storage Networking World conference.

In fact, the industry is moving the technology into the fast lane with a Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) demonstration of high-speed 4Gb/s Fibre Channel (4GFC) solutions on the SNW show floor.

The demonstration features 13 vendors showing end-to-end 4GFC data transactions in a simple SAN, with products from Aristos Logic, ATTO, Agilent, Emulex, Engenio, Finisar, Fujitsu, Hitachi, LSI Logic, McDATA, QLogic, Seagate and Xyratex demonstrating interoperability. The demo shows the technology’s capabilities for afterburner applications like online transaction processing, video streaming and editing, imaging, and high-performance computing.

In the demonstration, Fibre Channel adapters from Agilent, ATTO, Emulex, LSI Logic and QLogic located on a single server connect through switches from Emulex, McDATA and QLogic to RAID controllers form Aristos Logic and Engenio. Finisar analyzers monitor traffic. RAID controllers connect to Switched Bunch of Disks (SBODs) from Engenio and Xyratex, with 4GFC hard drives from Fujitsu, Hitachi GST and Seagate inside the SBODs.

Demonstrated applications include high-resolution video streams and an iometer configuration that uses 100% reads from the adapters through the switches to the RAID controllers, and displays combined performance of the RAID controller and target adapter.

FCIA says it is providing testing and demonstrations to show customers that 4GFC, which doubles the technology’s current speed, is ready. FCIA chairman Werner Glinka believes the industry is “poised to go through a transition from 2GFC technology to 4GFC.”

“We are now at a point where the technology will be available from multiple vendors, tested at plugfests and shown at demonstrations like SNW,” said Glinka. “The FCIA helps to ensure that investments are protected by testing backwards compatibility.”

Compatibility testing will continue with a second 4GFC plugfest hosted by the FCIA and the University of New Hampshire’s Interoperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) in May. The UNH-HOL consortium is building a 4G and 10G test bed with industry players for fine-tuning and debugging between group tests. FCIA members expressed their confidence that their 4GFC products will set new benchmarks for performance and compatibility.

4GFC products are already starting to hit the market. Just this week, Engenio announced the first 4-gig storage system targeted at enterprise customers.

Chris Lyon, executive director of FCIA, said 4GFC switch products have been shipping since last October. 4GFC disk drives are available now, and 4GFC host bus adapters (HBAs) are expected by the fall.

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