Fibre Channel

Fibre Channel is a high-speed fiber-optic cabling technology for connecting computer devices.

What is Fibre Channel?

A high-speed fiber-optic cabling technology for connecting computer devices. Although Fibre Channel is viewed as the future replacement for the Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) standard for connecting servers to external data storage units such as external hardware RAID arrays, it can also be used as a transport for high-speed data and video transmission over networks.

An enterprise-level data storage environment can benefit from Fibre Channel because the traditional SCSI interface has become a bottleneck in high-speed server operations. Fibre Channel eliminates the limitations of bandwidth, distance, and scalability that are related to the SCSI standard and is becoming the industry standard for enterprise-level storage solutions involving RAID arrays and storage area networks.

How it works

Fibre Channel, defined in the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard X3.230-1994, can handle data transmission rates from 266 Mbps to more than 4 Gbps over distances as great as 10 kilometers, with typical speeds of 1.06 Gbps in common configurations. You can implement Fibre Channel over both fiber-optic and copper media.

Fibre Channel systems typically connect hosts using host bus adapters to special hubs, adapters, switches, and storage units. Fibre Channel connections can be simple, point-to-point connections with intelligent communication between devices.

Fibre Channel uses a control protocol that is isolated from the data transmissions and uses point-to-point connections, switched topologies, and arbitrated loops to provide high performance and scalability.

A typical Fibre Channel implementation might use a stackable hub or switch to connect a server or mainframe host to an external Fibre Channel RAID storage system having 100-Mbps redundant loops and hot-swappable disks. Servers can also use SCSI over Fibre Channel for connecting to legacy storage systems. Fibre Channel can also carry TCP/IP and video traffic for server-to-server connections and high speed workstation connections in CAD/CAE or multimedia environments.

Graphic F-7. An example of its usage.

Fibre Channel competes with other high-speed networking technologies, such as Gigabit Ethernet and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM). Fibre Channel’s strengths include its protocol-independent transport service (in contrast to Gigabit Ethernet’s frame format, which extends from the desktop to the network backbone) and its guaranteed delivery service (included in Class 4 Fibre Channel, which makes it competitive with ATM’s Quality of Service features).

Also, Gigabit Ethernet is limited to general networking transport solutions and ATM is limited to networking and video transport, while Fibre Channel can carry network and video traffic, connect to storage devices, and be used in clustering technology.

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