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Fibre Channel SANs: 4G or Not 4G?

Two Fibre Channel vendors -- QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC) and Vixel Corp. (Nasdaq: VIXL) -- are pushing for the industry to adopt 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel for the next generation of SANs, but early in their campaign they're meeting resistance.

As recently as six months ago, Fibre Channel vendors and their storage partners appeared to have reached a consensus that 10 Gbit/s would be the next step up after the current generation of 2-Gbit/s FC. The rationale for this was for FC to keep pace with Ethernet, which is jumping from Gigabit Ethernet to 10-Gig Ethernet (see 10-Gig SANs).

However, recent discussions among members in the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA)'s Speed Forum working group [ed. note: of which Keanu Reeves is actually not a member] have raised the issue of putting 4-Gbit/s FC on the roadmap as a SAN fabric technology. Currently, the FCIA defines 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel only for internal system connectivity.

The 4-Gig SAN movement is early, and there's a distinct possibility that switches and host bus adapters (HBAs) that support this technology will never come to market. But the concept has two ardent backers in QLogic and Vixel, which are trying to make the case for why the industry should go to 4 Gig as an interim hop before it goes to 10-Gig Fibre Channel.

"The short version is, 10-Gig adoption is going to be a little longer than everyone anticipated originally, because of the cost," says Frank Berry, QLogic's VP of corporate marketing. "People are now figuring out that there's gap between 2 Gig and the adoption of 10 Gig... so at a certain point, 4 Gig starts to look a lot more interesting."

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