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4-Gig Fireworks

A short time back, few industry observers were willing to bet on mass adoption of 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel. In the Byte and Switch June poll, though, a full 58 percent of 418 respondents said 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel will become widely deployed. Only 28 percent think the next stop on the speed scale will be 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel.

This seems like a shift in outlook. Before the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) voted in favor of extending 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel into the SAN fabric last month, most of the industry seemed to be gearing up to make the leap directly to 10-Gbit/s from 2-Gbit/s equipment (see FC Fires Up 4-Gig Fiesta). The argument has been that Fibre Channel performance needs to keep pace with the ongoing migration to 10 Gbit/s on the Ethernet side of the equation.

Indeed, large industry players like Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA), and Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) have consistently claimed that customers simply arent interested in making a 4-Gbit/s pit-stop on the way to 10-Gbit/s gear.

Others have begged to differ. QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC) and a like-minded few have launched a lonely crusade to push 4-Gbit/s FC as the next natural step, saying that, while the technology doubles the performance of 2-Gbit/s gear, the cost remains the same (see QLogic Starts 4-Gig Quest).

Equipment for 10-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, on the other hand, would cost up to five times more than current 2-Gbit/s products, say 4-Gbit/s proponents. In addition, while 10 Gbit/s requires replacing all existing 1- and 2-Gbit/s equipment, 4 Gbit/s is backward-compatible with lower-speed FC products.

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