by Tim Lustig | Product Marketing Manager, Brocade Communications

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, the dot-com bubble bursting in 2000, Mars Exploration Rover landing in 2004, and the epic collapse of my beloved Denver Broncos in New Jersey in Super Bowl XLVIII. Wiping the tears from my eyes and getting back to 2014, it has been 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 next 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.

ANSI INCITS T11.2 Task Group and the FCIA Speedmap

The heart and soul of any technology, and the industry association that stewards the technology, is its technology roadmap. In concert with the ANSI INCITS T11.2 Task Group, the standards body that defines Fibre Channel speeds, the FCIA’s Roadmap Committee produces the FCIA Speedmap. The ANSI T11.2 Task Group works hand-in-hand with the FCIA and includes key standards engineers, marketing and technical experts from Fibre Channel suppliers, who in many cases are FCIA members. The resulting FCIA Speedmap is a renowned industry forecast for standards bodies, manufacturers and IT professionals that pinpoints highly attractive market propositions balanced with sound engineering feasibility. For 20 years the FCIA Speedmap has proven to be a reliable, trustworthy, consistently accurate and credible document used throughout the industry. The Speedmap defines features and benefits that are feasible within specified timelines, resulting in actual products that deliver many unique capabilities and advantages to meet the evolving requirements of storage.

FC-PI-6 for the Industry Means Products Coming Soon

The ANSI T11.2 Task Group is like any standards body and deplores wasting time developing standards that never see the light of day. The FCIA Roadmap Committee takes great pains creating the Speedmap so it accurately defines technically stable standards required to enable specific enhancements and products based upon those standards. The FCIA’s defined process of Speedmap development has over the years earned the trust and engagement from T11.2 to the point that FCIA Marketing Requirement Documents (MRDs) and Speedmap become INCITS documents embedded in the standards development process. Subsequently, the announcement of FC-PI-6 being forwarded for ANSI publication literally triggers product development throughout the industry.

The FCIA has long been influential in the development of Fibre Channel standards and Gen 6 Fibre Channel solutions will no doubt fuel continued storage networking success. 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 adapters, but rather continues. Fibre Channel customers within the KnowledgeVault 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.