A Milestone Year for Fibre Channel

For almost 20 years I've been involved with Fibre Channel, initially starting when Fibre Channel was only 531.25 Mbit/sec or "half speed." A lot has transpired since then, including an infamous white Bronco low-speed chase on LA freeways in 1994, Mars Exploration Rover landing in 2004, and 2014 is shaping up to become a milestones year for Fibre Channel.

Most recently, the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) launched a Knowledge Vault designed to be a resource for IT executives who are interested in learning more on how Fibre Channel can deliver greater business value. It's a great repository of professional videos and an assortment of collateral that reinforces why Fibre Channel is the purpose-built and proven network infrastructure for storage, engineered to meet the demands of today's enterprise data centers.

Earlier in the year, FCIA ratified the 32Gb Gen 6 Fibre Channel Physical Interface standard (FC-PI-6), a significant milestone on many levels. For the FCIA, formal completion of FC-PI-6 means we've triggered on-time publication of the ANSI standard for February and formally placed 32Gb bandwidth on our technology roadmap, the FCIA "Speedmap." For the industry, FC-PI-6 means manufacturers will commence product development on innovative Fibre Channel solutions to meet the growing need for fast, scalable and reliable storage networks.

Along with 32Gb performance, improved energy efficiency and enhanced security, the Gen 6 Fibre Channel standard also specifies these unique capabilities:

  • Forward Error Correction (FEC): Improves the reliability of all Gen 6 links through automatic detection and recovery from bit errors that occur in high speed networks. FEC minimizes and even avoids data stream errors that can lead to application performance degradation or outages.
  • Energy Efficiency: Incorporated protocol features improve energy consumption and include electrical copper links that power down when inactive, saving up to 100 percent of the link power. Lower energy consumption is achieved by allowing Fibre Channel optical connectors to operate in standby mode, or "nap," multiple times each second.
  • N-Port ID Virtualization (NPIV): Simplifies the deployment of server virtualization and enables massive scale of SAN fabrics. NPIV simplifies the deployment and mobility of virtualized servers by offloading the management of worldwide names (WWNs) from hypervisors to the Fibre Channel protocol. In addition, NPIV eliminates switch and domain count considerations, enabling greater scaling of SAN fabrics.
  • Enhanced Security: FC-SP-2 Further enhances Fibre Channel's well-known secure and protected environments by bringing Fibre Channel in compliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-131A. This ensures Fibre Channel's continued compliance with European and worldwide technology standards and governance bodies.
  • 128Gb Inter-Switch Link (ISL) Connectivity: Aggregating four parallel 32Gb Fibre Channel lanes between servers and storage devices on a single link enables the world's fastest storage networking protocol.

The evolution of data center storage doesn't stop at Gen 6 Fibre Channel, but rather continues. Fibre Channel customers within the Knowledge Vault highlight traction gains in emerging Fibre Channel storage dominance and its industry leadership will also march on as Fibre Channel continues to shape industry standards and continues to set high marks for industry markets.