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The Role of 16Gb Fibre Channel in Today’s Data Center

In my role as head of IDC's Data Center research practice, I've been spending a lot of time lately with CIOs who are facing some serious data center decisions. The crux of these decisions is how to gain more value from data center investments by optimizing capacity, reducing risk, and driving innovation. Similarly, representatives from large global enterprises such as AOL, and Rackspace wrestle with these same core issues and the need for shared storage and sustained performance. Their stories and solutions to these issues are summaries in short videos on the Fibre Channel Industry Association’s (FCIA’s) Knowledge Vault.

Due to the strong interdependencies of the server's data and storage networking environment, it is critical for organization to ensure that their storage network is capable of delivering high levels of performance and availability as well as supporting more advanced features. To do so, they are looking for assurance that their storage and data networks and fabrics can keep up with operating complexities by incorporating the newest and fastest network standards like 16Gb Fibre Channel for core systems. With the extensive use of virtualization and ongoing data center consolidation efforts, the time for 16Gb Fibre Channel is now, and it will have a major impact.

Below are two specific examples of my conversation with CIOs that provide a good picture of the business issues reshaping IT investment priorities:

• Last summer I spoke with a CIO at a global, multinational bank that was wrestling with a significant business model change resulting from the global financial crisis of the past several years. Over a three-year period, commercial/consumer banking went from being just 30% of the business in terms of revenue, to over 70%. Geographic expansion (into high-growth emerging markets like Brazil and India), as well as rapid expansion of mobile banking services (which also happens to be the primary banking interface in many emerging markets), are the key drivers of future data center investment plans. The top challenges are reducing transaction latency while supporting exponential increases in transaction loads.

• In the fall, my team also spent time with the CIO and CTO at a major consumer products manufacturer. They are being asked to support a major roll-out of mobile kiosks (initially 20,000, but expanding to 1,000,000 in a couple years) around the US. These systems will allow the company to collect real-time preferences directly from consumers. This massive increase in transaction volume, plus the need to rapidly design and deploy a new set of applications that will allow the company to leverage the data for product development, logistics, and promotion, is placing considerable stress on compute, storage, and network assets. They need solutions that will allow them to scale rapidly without jeopardizing processing performance.

Both of these examples, and many more like them, clearly indicate that developments like mobile, cloud, and "Big Data" are transforming industries, businesses, and data centers. What they also make clear is that CIOs still require consistent and reliable transaction processing, and lots more of it, every day. The companies discussed above are all engaged in major initiatives that will change their businesses, as well as the way we all interact with them as suppliers, consumers, or partners. Predictable, reliable, and scalable network performance is at the core of making sure everyone is satisfied with the outcome.

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