In 1422, upon the death of Charles VI and the ascendancy of Charles VII in France, the French phrase “Le roi est mort, vive le roi!” (The king is dead, long live the king!) was first spoken to indicate that continuity ruled in the face of change.Much the same is happening in the world of storage connectivity with Fibre Channel (FC). Despite the perceptions that FC is dead or dying, it continues to march forward with innovation and continues to be the ruler of lossless, high-speed storage networking. Fibre Channel is dead, long live Fibre Channel!
Fibre Channel was first available in 1997 with 1Gbps (GFC) and is now currently in its fifth generation at 16Gbps (16GFC). Just this year, the Gen 6 (32GFC) standard was announced by the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA). This means Fibre Channel has been in the market for 17 years now, and it continues to double its speed. But, as detailed in the Gen 6 announcement, it’s not just about the speed. The Fibre Channel standard continues to drive incremental value in the form of services that improve network reliability, energy efficiency and operational simplicity. Long live Fibre Channel indeed!
Fibre Channel sales are acknowledged to be declining, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are more than 18 million Fibre Channel ports already installed, delivering storage networking connectivity for the world’s largest enterprises. This installed base inherently means Fibre Channel will continue to remain relevant in the market as a reliable storage protocol. In 2013, according to Gartner, the industry was expected to consume a further $11 billion of Fibre Channel storage.1 FC is in demand in cutting-edge arenas including blazing-fast solid-state-disk (SSD) storage, modern databases and dense virtual infrastructures. Fibre Channel is still the king.
Fibre Channel: The King of SSD Storage
New high-performance environments are using flash storage to increase I/O operations per second (IOPS) and decrease latency. SSDs no longer need time to respond to I/O requests. The speed of the flash array at one million IOPS moves the performance bottleneck from the storage to the network and server (I/O) infrastructure, as the graphic below illustrates. The network fabric must be able to support the faster flow of data while ensuring that information-flow reliability is uncompromised. Without network support, the costly investment into flash arrays and the compute layer is wasted.
Fibre Channel is the obvious choice for high-performance arrays to expand and hit full performance at both the storage and compute layers. Recent Fibre Channel innovations enhance this connection by adding quality of service (QoS) for flash optimization. Both flash cache and logical-unit-number (LUN) prioritization allows administrators to tailor the data center environment to fully optimize investment in flash technology. Companies not only meet high resource demands with the touch of a button but also increase performance on critical applications. Fibre Channel is still the king.
Royal Chairs Are Rarely “Throne” Out
Traditional databases such as OLTP/OLAP are still increasing their performance speed/IOPS capability while continually demanding absolutely error-free performance. Both of these databases perform optimally in lossless environments. The first time should be the only time a packet is sent to avoid errors and maintain performance, especially in financial applications. Fibre Channel can promise total protection against silent data corruption. This type of corruption can happen in an environment when incomplete or incorrect data overwrites data on the SAN. This problem can lead to costly downtime and even data loss. Fibre Channel guarantees protection against it by enabling T10 Protection Information protocol (T10 PI). The T10 PI feature ensures end-to-end data integrity in I/O operations by exchanging verification information through each level, ensuring validity of data.
This increase in performance capability of modern databases, combined with the use of high-performance flash storage, requires a high-performance network to match the high-speed environment and maintain an increase in end-to-end performance over time. Infrastructure designers will not be quick to dismiss a lossless protocol that has years of experience in reliability of high-performance connectivity. Fibre Channel is still the king.
Virtually Ruling the Kingdom
Virtualization of desktops and servers has changed from one host and one virtual machine (VM) occasionally querying I/O, to a single host with many VMs generating data requests to a storage-area network (SAN). Each VM with different I/O requirements makes the I/O requests random and variable. The compute layer of the host expands and increases resources to meet the number of VMs, and storage is meeting resources with speedy flash arrays and cache.
The network interconnect simply needs to keep up with the increase of IOPS. Fibre Channel will continue to be the pipe of choice for large enterprise customers because it is the best option for meeting their performance needs, prioritizing the flow of traffic from mission-critical applications and protecting the integrity of data as it traverses the network from application to disk.
There is a reason why 90% of Fortune 100 companies deploy Fibre Channel: it is proven in the word’s most demanding data centers. Fibre Channel is still the king.
Kings Do Not Worry About a Receding “Heir” Line
Fibre Channel is more than just how much bandwidth there is for applications. It also does a better job sustaining the bandwidth in mission-critical applications. Servers attached to storage using Fibre Channel not only get blazing-fast performance, they also get lossless, low-latency packet transmission. Whether the data center is running OLAP, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or SSD storage, Fibre Channel is the best way to allow these investments to fully perform. There is a $50 billion installed base in lossless, reliable, high-performance Fibre Channel. This base of users means that investment in Fibre Channel will be protected, and the technology will continue to be the ruler of high-performance connectivity.
Fibre Channel is still the king.
Leading article image courtesy of cbowns
- Gartner: Forecast: External Controller-Based Disk Storage, Worldwide, All Countries, 2013-2017, 3Q13 Update
About the Author
Jeet Nagda is an associate product marketing manager at Emulex, for storage and Fibre Channel technology, in the network-connectivity product portfolio. In this role, he is focused on outbound marketing efforts for industry-class storage networking solutions and custom target drivers for storage applications. Before Emulex, he worked at Synopsys in the IT storage department. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), Paul Merage School of Business.