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Fibre Channel: Supporting Evolving Storage Requirements

In a turbulent computing era that is being redefined by highly virtualized environments, solid state storage and cloud-based architectures, unprecedented advancements in storage networks are needed to respond to the IO strains of increased complexity. In order for enterprise data centers to keep pace, the right network architecture must be implemented to prevent consolidated and low latency IO from driving bottlenecks within the storage network. Fibre Channel (FC) helps to alleviate IO discrepancies and extends the underlying benefits of evolving IT trends.

A Purpose-built Storage Architecture

By utilizing its underlying, state-of-the-art fabric, FC ensures both data integrity and reliable/consistent data center connectivity. With high-speed links, FC consolidates necessary ports to eliminate port count requirements of other protocols. This not only streamlines storage access, but it also reduces the number of necessary host bus adapters (HBAs), switches and end devices, substantially lowering IT costs, power and cooling requirements.

FC's credit-based flow control – one of the exclusive features of FC that make it so well suited for block-level storage data networks – delivers data as fast as the destination buffer is able to receive it, without dropping frames or losing data. With an exceptionally efficient encoding scheme, FC further reduces overhead.

FC’s predictable performance is enhanced by its exclusive diagnostic, error-detection and correction tools. They enable consistent, uninterrupted data accessibility, ensuring that data remains accurate and consistent throughout its lifecycle. These tools also simplify and reduce management costs, eliminating the manual, error-prone tasks that can jeopardize data and storage connectivity performance.

These unique features lend to FC’s unparalleled stability. Flat and simple, with the elasticity to accommodate scaling as needed, FC is ready to meet the fluctuating demands of businesses and data centers as servers become increasingly consolidated and server utilization rates rise.

FC is also one of the most widely deployed and trusted storage connectivity solutions. All major OEMs and prominent networking companies participate in standards-based development. Their roadmap goals include enhancements such as Forward Error Correction (FEC) to avoid data stream errors that can lead to application performance degradation or outages and improve the reliability of data transmissions through automatic detection and recovery from bit errors in high-speed networks. Another enhancement in development is for FC to lower energy consumption by allowing optical connectors to operate in standby mode and allow for the ports to be "woken up" when data transmission is necessary.

Lastly, the development of 32GFC has been announced and represents the fastest single-lane serial transmission speed of any copper or optical storage interconnect in history. With 128GFC to follow by aggregating four parallel 32Gb FC lanes between servers and storage devices on a single link, FC will enable the world’s fastest storage networking protocol.

While exceptional speed and low-latency performance have long been FC’s hallmarks, it also extends predictable performance, assured data integrity, reliable connectivity, management simplicity and maximum scalability to its customers. FC’s forward and backward compatibility also protects IT investments by allowing growing enterprises to forgo expensive “rip and replace” scenarios.

An enhanced version of this information complete with a FC Timeline is available here. Please also visit the wealth of resources available on the recently launched Knowledge Vault, hosted by the Fibre Channel Industry Association.

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