Cabling Storage Area Networks

by Scott G. Kipp, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.
April 2016

This paper discusses Fibre Channel links from 1 Gigabit Fibre Channel (1GFC) to 128GFC.  From insertion loss estimates to link lengths, this paper gives a good overview of  
fiber optic cabling in storage area networks.

Fibre Channel standards define the links and protocols that form storage area networks (SANs).  The Fibre Channel protocol runs on Fibre Channel, Ethernet and long haul (optical transport) links.  Each Fibre Channel link has different characteristics and this paper will focus on links within the data center.  The fiber optic cabling infrastructure is the same for Ethernet and Fibre Channel, but significant differences do exist.  Fibre Channel has been standardized to support a wide variety of cabling connectivity solutions.
Fiber Optic links are defined by four main parameters:

  1. Speed
  2. Distance
  3. Reflectance
  4. Insertion Loss

These four parameters define links that connect two ports through cabling infrastructure.  Millions of Fibre Channel links are installed each year and most are less than 100 meters long.  Fibre Channel links may span over 10 kilometers at billions of bits per second or Gigabits/second (Gb/s).  This paper will focus on the most common types of links in SANs. The Fibre Channel Industry Association has developed The Fibre Channel Roadmap to explain Fibre Channel in an easy to understand and visually pleasing manner.  Download your copy of the roadmap at www.fibrechannel.org/roadmap.html

Read the Whitepaper