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Top Fibre Channel Hardware

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The Fibre Channel storage market includes multiple classes of hardware that help organizations to build and enable Storage Area Networks (SAN) deployments.

In recent years, the market for Fibre Channel technologies has consolidated – somewhat – as companies have been acquired, reducing the number of vendors in the space. Though consolidation has occurred, Fibre Channel remains a cornerstone of the enterprise data storage market.

Fibre Channel is not one single piece of technology, rather it is a highly resilient protocol that enables data storage transfer. There are several generations of Fibre Channel, with most recent specification being the Gen 7 standard. Also referred to as 64 GFC, Gen 7 provides up to 64 Gbps of bandwidth.

The Gen 7 standard was formally announced in November 2018. Most current Fibre Channel deployments are based on what is referred to as Gen 6 or 32GFC, which provides 32 Gbps.

Fibre Channel hardware components

Within the Fibre Channel markets are several key hardware components that are typically part of a SAN deployment.

Host Bus Adapters (HBA). A Fibre Channel HBA is much like an Network Interface Card (NIC) is for an Ethernet network, enabling connectivity between a host system and a Fibre Channel SAN.

Fibre Channel Switch. A Fibre Channel Switch is multi-port hardware chassis that enables connectivity across a SAN.

Fibre Channel Director. A Fibre Channel Director is a larger type of Fibre Channel switch, with a higher port count and a modular chassis that supports multiple slots for Fibre Channel port connectivity.

In this Enterprise Storage Forum top hardware list, we spotlight some of the top Fibre Channel hardware solutions.

Host Bus Adapters:

Fibre Channel Switches/ Directors:

ATTO Celerity CTFC 324E Atto

Atto's Celerity lineup of Fibre Channel HBA's span multiple generations of Fibre Channel with Gen6 currently at the top end of the shipping portfolio.

A key differentiator is the company's Multipath Director that can enable connectivity to storage as well as Windows, Linux and macOS workstations. Atto offers multiple configuration and port options on its Celerity cards ranging from single to quad-port versions. At the top end of the current Atto Celerity portfolio is the CTFC-324E.

Key Features:

  • 32 Gbps Gen6 Fibre Channel
  • Ports: 4
  • Bus Type: x16 PCIe 3.0
  • List price: $3,995

Broadcom Emulex LPe35004-M2 FCemulex

Broadcom's portfolio of Fibre Channel adapters extend into the Gen7 specification, which provides additional bandwidth and performance options for enterprise SAN deployments.

A key differentiator is the Emulex Dynamic Multi-core architecture in HBA that offers the promise of optimized port efficiency across all processing cores as part of a multi-threaded process flow.

Key Features:

  • 64 Gbps Gen7 Fibre Channel (64FC)
  • Support for NVMe over Fibre Channel (NVMe/FC)
  • Ports: 4
  • Bus Type: x16 PCIe 3.0
  • List price: $4,617.99

Marvell QLogic QLE2764-SR-CKQlogic

QLogic has changed owners multiple times over the years. The company started off as a spin off from Emulex in 1992, was acquired by Cavium in 2016, which in turn was acquired by Marvell in 2018.

A key differentiator for Marvell is its StorFusion software for Fibre Channel SAN fabric management and performance optimization. QLogic 2700 Series is Cavium's 32 Gb/s Gen6 entrant in the Fibre Channel HBA space. The top end of the current portfolio is the QLE2764.

Key Features:

  • 32 Gbps Gen 6 Fibre Channel
  • Ports: 4
  • Bus Type: x16 PCIe 3.0
  • List Price: $4,400

Fibre Channel Switches/Directors

Broadcom/ Brocade G630 Switchbrocade

Brocade was acquired by Broadcom in November 2017, bringing along with it an extensive portfolio of Fibre Channel hardware.

In April 2018, Broadcom announced the Brocade G630 switch as a new Gen 6 Fibre Channel platform to enable high-speed SAN deployments, with NVMe storage. A key differentiator for the platform is Brocade's DevOps automation tooling to help with storage management.

Key Features:

  • 32 Gbps Gen 6 Fibre Channel
  • Ports: Modular with option for 48 to 128
  • Bandwidth: 4 Tbps
  • List price: 48 Ports - $125,000

Cisco MDS 9718cisco

Cisco's MDS platform has long been one of the leading Fibre Channel director hardware offerings in the market. At the top end, Cisco announced in September 2019 that it was updating the MDS 9700 with Gen 7 Fibre Channel readiness capabilities.

The Gen 7 support will come by way of new line cards for the modular hardware chassis. A key differentiator for Cisco is the integrated multi-layer support for Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

Key Features:

  • Chassis switching capacity of 48 Tbps
  • Ports: Up to 768 32-Gbps and up to 128x 10 Gbps IP (for FCoE)
  • 16 x line card slots.
  • Bandwidth: Up to 48-Tbps front-panel Fibre Channel (FC) switching capacity
  • List price: $34,500

HPE StoreFabric SN6650Bhpe

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is among the big vendors that remains active in the Fibre Channel switch and director space. With the StoreFabric SN6650B, HPE has a very dense, 2 rack-unit (2RU) hardware chassis that can fit into a standard server room rack for easy deployment.

A key differentiator for HPE is its StoreFabric Power Pack+ software which includes Fabric Vision, Extended Fabric, IO Insight and VM Insight.

Key Features:

  • Gen 6 Fiber Channel
  • Ports:96 autosensing 32/16/10/8/4 Gbps FC
  • Bandwidth: 4 Tbps
  • List price: $385,000

IBM SAN 128B-6IBM

IBM is another stalwart of the Fibre Channel business, often reselling and rebranding technologies from other vendors including Cisco and Brocade.

A key differentiator for IBM however is the real-time monitoring and integration services that are part of IBM's offerings, making it easier for organizations to deploy Fibre Channel. The IBM SAN 128B-6 is a mid-range Fibre Channel switch that can be a good fit in large scale storage networks, supporting flash storage hardware.

Key Features:

  • Gen 6 32 Gbps
  • Ports: 128 ports, auto-sensing for 4/8/10/16/32 Gbps Fibre Channel
  • Aggregate Bandwidth: 4 Tbps

Lenovo ThinkSystem DB620Slenovo

Lenovo's is an OEM partner of Brocade's offering its own spin on branded Fibre Channel switch hardware. Among the key items Lenovo includes is the EZSwitch setup wizard that aims to simply SAN deployments.

Key Features:

  • Gen 6 32 Gbps
  • Ports: 48
  • Aggregate Bandwidth: 2 Tbps
  • List Price $54,000

Hardware Comparison Chart

HBA

FC Version

Ports

Differentiator

List Price

ATTO Celerity CTFC 324E

Gen 6

4

Multipath Director 

$3,995

Broadcom Emulex LPe35004-M2 FC

Gen 7

4

Emulex Dynamic Multi-core architecture

$4,600

Marvell  QLogic QLE2764-SR-CK

Gen 6

4

StorFusion software

$4,400

Switch / Director

Broadcom/ Brocade G630 Switch

Gen 6

48-128

DevOps automation tooling 

$125,000

Cisco MDS 9718

Gen 6

(upgradeable to Gen7

768

integrated multi-layer support 

Contact vendor

HPE StoreFabric SN6650B

Gen 6

96

 StoreFabric Power Pack+ software

$385,000

IBM SAN 128B-6

Gen 6

128

Real-time monitoring

Contact vendor

Lenovo  ThinkSystem DB620S

Gen 6

48

 EZSwitch setup wizard 

$54,000

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